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"Use or Lose" Annual Leave Guidance

This is to remind Department of Commerce (Department) employees that the current leave year ends on January 1, 2011. By law, the maximum amount of annual leave that most employees may carry into the new leave year, which begins on January 2, 2011, is 240 hours. However, Foreign Service employees overseas have a ceiling of 360 hours, while members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), Senior-Level (SL), Scientific and Professional (ST), Senior Foreign Service (SFS), and Presidential Appointees retaining SES benefits, have a ceiling of 720 hours or the employee's personal ceiling.

Excess annual leave above an employee's applicable ceiling is called "use or lose" leave and is subject to forfeiture at the end of the leave year. Forfeited “use or lose” annual leave may be considered for restoration if the leave was forfeited due to an exigency of the public business or sickness of the employee, but only if the leave was scheduled and approved in writing by November 20, 2010.

In September of 2001, the President declared a National Emergency by Reason of Certain Terrorist Attacks. As a result, terrorist attacks are still deemed an exigency of the public business for the purpose of restoring forfeited annual leave. Employees who forfeit “use or lose” annual leave because their services are necessary for the national emergency are entitled to have their leave restored without following the above scheduling requirements. In addition, the time limits for using restored annual leave are suspended for the entire period during which the employee's services are determined to be essential for activities associated with the national emergency.

Employees with "use or lose" leave may donate excess annual leave to approved recipients under the Department's Leave Transfer Program. Leave donations made for this purpose are limited to no more than the number of hours remaining in the leave year for which an employee is scheduled to work and receive pay.

For additional information, employees should see our Annual Leave and Leave Transfer Program Web pages or contact their Servicing Human Resources Office.