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Annual Leave

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Purpose

Annual leave is a period of approved absence with pay from official duties. It is intended to allow the employee vacation, rest and recreation. It is also intended for the employee's use in attending to personal or emergency business, to extend the time available to the employee under some other leave programs, and for use with specific military leave entitlement (see Military Leave).

An employee may receive donations of annual leave from fellow employees and employees of other agencies, and may donate annual leave to employees of this and other agencies through the leave transfer program (see Leave Transfer).

An employee may receive donations of annual leave from pooled donations from fellow employees and employees of other agencies if adversely affected by a major disaster or emergency, as declared by the President, that causes severe hardship to the employee or family member to such a degree that the employee's absence from work is required (see Emergency Leave Transfer program for Major Disasters or Emergencies).

Responsibilities

Annual leave is an employee benefit and accrues automatically. All employees are expected to use their annual leave judiciously. Supervisors have the discretion to decide when and in what amount annual leave may be approved. This decision should weigh the needs of the workplace with the desires of the employee.

Employees may be required to request leave several days to several weeks in advance of the time they wish to take it so that work can scheduled and the leave plans of other employees coordinated.

Unless overtaken by events, an employee is responsible for "calling in" and reporting an emergency that will require unplanned absence. If the supervisor determines that the needs of the work unit preclude a grant of leave, or if the reasons expressed by the employee for absence are not acceptable, the supervisor may order the employee to report to duty. In such instances, the supervisor at his or her discretion may grant sufficient time on approved leave to reach the worksite or charge all or part of the absence to AWOL.

Accrual of Annual Leave

Full-time employees on a common tour of duty. All full-time employees assigned to an 80-hour tour of duty shall earn and be credited with annual leave for each full biweekly pay period in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 6303 as follows:

Years of Service

Pay Period Accrual

Last Pay Period of Calendar Year

Up to 3

4 hours

4 hours

3 to 15

6 hours

10 hours

15 and over

8 hours

8 hours

Full-time employees on an uncommon tour of duty. All full-time employees assigned to a 72-hour workweek and receiving pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1) shall earn and be credited with annual leave for each full biweekly pay period as follows:

Years of Service

Pay Period Accrual

Last Pay Period of Calendar Year

Up to 3

7 hours

12 hours

3 to 15

11 hours

13 hours

15 and over

14 hours

24 hours

Full-time employees working a 56-hour workweek and receiving pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545 (c)(1) shall earn and be credited with annual leave for each full biweekly pay period as follows:

Years of Service

Pay Period Accrual

Last Pay Period of Calendar Year

Up to 3

5 hours

21 hours

3 to 15

8 hours

24 hours

15 and over

11 hours

16 hours

See uncommon tour of duty leave accrual chart and formula.

Part-time employees. Part-time employees for whom there has been established in advance a regular tour of duty on one or more days during each administrative workweek shall earn and be credited with annual leave in proportion to the hours worked for each full biweekly pay period as follows:

Years of Service

Hours in a Pay Status

Leave Accrual

Up to 3

20 hours

1 hour

3 to 15

13 hours

1 hour

15 and over

10 hours

1 hour

The formula to calculate a part-time employee's leave accrual considers the current pay period base time hours and overtime hours, as well as unapplied hours from the previous pay period. However, any hours in a pay status during a pay period in excess of the Department's basic work requirement (80 hours) or in excess of 40 hours in a workweek shall be excluded in the computation of earned leave.

See part-time leave accrual formula and chart.

Temporary employees. (Updated March 20, 2014) A temporary employee with an appointment of less than 90 days is entitled to accrue annual leave only after being currently employed for a continuous period of 90 days under successive appointments without a break in service. After completing the 90-day period of continuous employment, the employee is entitled to be credited with the leave that would have accrued to him or her during that period.

(This restriction only applies to the accrual of annual leave.)

However, if an employee on such an appointment already has annual leave to his or her credit from a previous appointment, he or she is allowed to use this annual leave during the temporary appointment.

Members of the Senior Executive Service, Senior Foreign Service, and Employees in Senior-Level and Scientific and Professional Positions. Employees who are members of the Senior Executive Service (SES), Senior Foreign Service, and those in senior-level and scientific and professional positions (SL/ST) shall earn and be credited with annual leave the rate of 1 day (8 hours) for each full biweekly pay period without regard to the length of their service with the Federal Government.

This coverage may be extended to employees who are covered by a pay system “equivalent” to either the SES pay system or the SL/ST pay system, upon approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). All requests for extension of this coverage must first be submitted through the Departmental Office of Human Resources Management and must document that the affected pay system is equivalent to the SES or SL/ST pay system and meets all three of the following:

  • Pay rates are established under an administratively determined (AD) pay system under a separate statutory authority outside of 5 U.S.C. chapters 51 and 53, and if the AD position;

  • Has a single rate of pay which is higher than the rate of pay for a GS-15, step 10.

  • Is paid within a rate range. The minimum rate of the rate range must be at least equal to the minimum rate for the SES and SL/ST pay systems (120 percent of the rate for GS-15, step 1, and the maximum rate of the rate range must be at least equal to the rate for Level IV of the Executive Schedule).

Covered positions are equivalent to an SES positions as defined in 5 U.S.C. 3132(a)(2), a senior-level position (i.e., a non-executive position classified above GS-15, such as a high-level special assistant or a senior attorney in a highly-specialized field who is not a manager, supervisor, or policy advisor), or a scientific or professional position as defined in 5 U.S.C 3104.

Covered positions are subject to a performance appraisal system set under the 5 U.S.C. Chapter 43 and 5 CFR part 430, subparts B and C, or other applicable legal authority, for planning, monitoring, developing, evaluating, and rewarding employee performance.

The new accrual rate will be effective during the pay period in which OPM approves the request for extension of coverage.

When an employee moves to a noncovered position he/she will no longer be entitled to the higher annual leave accrual rate and the employee’s annual leave accrual rate will be determined based on his/her years of creditable service as provided in 5 U.S.C. 6303(a).

Changes between full-time, part-time and intermittent positions. An employee who is changed from a full-time to a part-time position, or vice versa, during a biweekly pay period without a break in service accrues leave based on the number of hours as a part-time employee and the pro rata leave accrual table (see pro rata leave accrual chart) for the number of days worked as a full-time employee.

Similarly, an employee on a mixed tour who is changed from a full-time or part-time to an intermittent position, or vice versa, during a biweekly pay period without a break in service accrues leave based on either the number of hours as a part-time employee or the pro rata leave accrual table for the number of days worked as a full-time employee.

With the exception of a mixed tour employee and employees in continuing programs (i.e., the employee is required to return to a full-time or part-time schedule after a period of intermittent employment) whose unapplied hours are held in abeyance, any unapplied hours remaining to the credit of a part-time employee moving to a full-time or intermittent position are forfeited. The forfeited unapplied hours must be manually removed from the Department’s automated personnel/payroll system, the National Finance Center.

Less than full biweekly pay period. Full-time employees are not entitled to accrue annual leave for any period of employment which is less than a full biweekly pay period, except where:

  • A transfer occurs between positions with different pay periods (biweekly, monthly, etc.);

  • Continuity of employment is interrupted by a non-leave-earning period and the employee will return to a leave earning status;

  • The employee enters on duty on the first workday following a holiday which falls on the first workday of the pay period; or

  • A transfer occurs during the pay period.

Note that part-time employees accrue leave in proportion to the hours worked for each full biweekly pay period. As such, they are entitled to earn leave for periods of employment which are less than a full biweekly pay period.

Loss of leave accruals based on nonpay status. A full-time employee earns leave during each full biweekly pay period while in a pay status or a combination of pay and nonpay status. However, a full-time employee is not entitled to accrue leave whenever he or she amasses enough hours of absence in a nonpay status during one leave year to equal the number of base-pay hours in one pay period (e.g., 80 hours). The loss of leave accruals must be equal to the amount of leave that is earned in one pay period at the employee's current annual leave accrual rate. For example, if a full-time employee in a six hour leave category is in nonpay status for the entire pay period or reaches an increment of 80 hours (e.g., 160, 240, 320, etc.) of nonpay status during the pay period, the employee would not accrue six (6) hours of annual leave for the pay period. (Note that full-time employees in the 6-hour annual leave earning category who lose leave accruals due to nonpay status hours in the last full pay period of the leave year, will lose the full 10-hour annual leave accrual.) Additional absences without pay have the same effect if they again add up to an increment of 80 hours before the end of the leave year. Hours in a nonpay status which are not sufficient to require a loss of leave accruals are dropped at the end of the leave year.

Pay periods other than biweekly. Employees who are paid on other than a biweekly pay period basis earn and are credited with leave on a pro rata basis for a full pay period.

Crediting Accruals. Annual leave accruals shall be credited at the beginning of each pay period.

No leave entitlement for certain employees. Employees who have no regularly scheduled tour of duty may not earn leave. See title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.) 6301(2)(ii)

Temporary employees. All temporary employees, including those appointed to serve for less than 90 days, are not entitled to earn and use annual leave. If the appointment is extended or converted past the 90 days, employees are entitled to the annual leave accruals retroactive back to the original date of hire.

Maximum Accumulation of Annual Leave

Employees stationed in the United States. Except as provided in this paragraph, the maximum amount of annual leave which a full-time employee may accumulate and carry forward to a succeeding year may not exceed 30 days (240 hours) at the beginning of the first complete biweekly pay period occurring in any year.

Return from overseas post. When an employee leaves an overseas post in which he or she has been eligible for a maximum accumulation of 45 days (360 hours) of regular annual leave, the maximum amount of regular annual leave that he or she may carry forward into the next leave year shall not exceed 360 hours. The amount which shall be carried forward is the amount to the employee's credit at the end of the pay period which includes the date on which the employee departs from his or her post of duty. However, if the employee is required to perform duty en route to a post in which he or she would still be subject to the 360 hours ceiling, it shall be either the date on which the employee ceases to perform such duty, or the date on which final administrative approval is given to effect a change in the employee's duty station when he or she is on detail or on leave in the United States, or any of its territories and possessions, including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, from which the employee was recruited or transferred.

This maximum accumulation continues as the employee's personal leave ceiling for carryover to succeeding years until such time as the employee carries a smaller accumulation of annual leave from one year to another. At that time, this smaller accumulation becomes the employee's new personal annual leave ceiling, unless this accumulation is less than 240 hours in which case, 240 hours becomes the employee’s leave ceiling.

Senior Executive Service (SES), Senior Foreign Services (SFS), Senior Level (SL) and Scientific and Professional (ST) Employees. The law limits to 90 days (720 hours) annual leave accrued by members of the SES, the Senior Foreign Service (SFS), employees in SL and ST positions, and Presidential appointees who as former career SES employees elect to retain SES benefits under 5 U.S.C. 3392. In accordance with Title 5 U.S.C. 6304(f)(1) and effective April 8, 2008, employees in SL and ST positions compensated under 5 U.S.C. 5376 were authorized to carryover 90 days (720 hours) of annual leave as their leave ceiling at the start of each new leave year.

SES/SFS/SL/ST Personal Ceiling. Certain SES, SFS, or Presidential employees whom the law grand fathered with accumulated leave in excess of 720 hours (effective October 16, 1994) are entitled to retain as a personal ceiling the leave accrued as of that date until the employee carries a smaller end-of-year balance into the next leave year, in which case, that balance becomes the employee's new ceiling. The amount of leave that such an individual may carry over from one leave year to the next (figured at the end of the leave year) is limited to the employee's personal leave ceiling at the beginning of the leave year plus all hours of leave which the employee earned in the leave year less any leave the employee used. (Only leave earned and used from October 16 to the end of the 1994 leave year was considered in computing the 1995 beginning leave balance. These employees were grandfathered in with the balance they had as of October 16, 1994.) If an SES/SFS employee’s leave accrual exceeds leave used in any leave year (figured at the end of the leave year), leave in excess of the employee's personal ceiling (or 720 hours as applicable) shall be forfeited. Any leave restored to the employee must be kept in a separate account and used in accordance with regulations governing restored leave.

Moving out of SES/SFS/SL/ST. When an SES/SFS/SL/ST employee moves out of an SES/SFS/SL/ST position or a position under which his or her benefits were protected by Title 5 U.S.C. 6304 (f) (1) or 5 U.S.C. 3392, the employee shall be entitled to retain to his/her credit the leave balance on that date. This balance becomes the employee's personal leave ceiling if it does not exceed 720 hours or a previously established grandfather leave ceiling (see above). Any leave accrued from the time of movement out of the SES/SFS/SL/ST through the end of the leave year, must be used or it will be forfeited at the end of the leave year. As examples:

  • If an employee has more than 720 hours of annual leave at the time of the move and has agrandfathered personal leave ceiling, he/she may not carry over into the next leave year an amount greater than his/her grandfathered leave ceiling. For example, an employee who was grandfathered in with a personal leave ceiling of 950 hours moves out of the SES/SFS/SL/ST effective pay period 20 with an annual leave balance of 1,000 hours. The employee, accruing leave at a rate of 8 hours per pay period, will accrue an additional 48 hours before the end of the leave year. The employee must use 98 hours (50 hours above the 950 hour personal ceiling plus the 48 hours accrued) by the end of the leave year. The personal leave ceiling of 950 hours will remain in effect until the employee uses more leave then he/she accrues in a leave year.

  • If an employee has more than 720 hours of annual leave at the time of the move and does not have a grandfathered personal leave ceiling, he/she may not carry over into the next leave year more than 720 hours. For example, an employee moves out of the SES/SFS/SL/ST effective pay period 20 with an annual leave balance of 950 hours (which becomes his/her personal leave ceiling until the end of the leave year). The employee, accruing leave at a rate of 8 hours per pay period, will accrue an additional 48 hours before the end of the leave year. The employees also use 100 hours of leave by the end of the leave year. Although the employee's leave balance is 989 hours at the end of the leave year, he/she may only carry over 720 hours into the new leave year.

In both examples, this maximum accumulation continues as the employees personal leave ceiling for carryover to succeeding years until such time as the employee carries a smaller accumulation of annual leave from one year to another. At that time, this smaller accumulation becomes the employee’s new personal annual leave ceiling until the leave ceiling for the new non- SES/SFS/SL/ST position is reached.

Less Than a Full Biweekly Pay Period. When an employee in an SES/SFS/SL/ST position serves less than a full biweekly pay period in that position, the portion of accrued annual leave attributable to service in the SES/SFS/SL/ST position is subject to the 90-day maximum carryover amount. Annual leave accrued during the remainder of the biweekly pay period is subject to the ceiling limitations of the new position.

Moving into SES/SFS/SL/ST. If, on entry into SES/SFS/SL/ST, an employee’s leave balance is above the applicable ceiling at the time, that portion of leave which was above the ceiling at conversion to SES/SFS/SL/ST is still subject to the ceiling (i.e., it must be used or lost by the end of the leave year).

Proration of leave. Annual leave subsequently accrued for any pay period in which the employee served only a portion under an SES/SFS appointment shall be prorated, and that portion of the leave associated with service in the SES/SFS shall be subject to the SES/SFS maximum carryover limitation.

Employees stationed overseas. Employees stationed overseas are eligible to accumulate only 240 hours of regular annual leave. However, a maximum accumulation not to exceed 45 days (360 hours) at the beginning of the first complete biweekly pay period in any leave year is authorized for those overseas employees in the following categories (Note: Employees stationed overseas must meet the requirements at 5 U.S.C. 6304(b) in order to receive the 45-day annual leave ceiling.):

Persons directly recruited or transferred by the Federal Government from a United States area (i.e., from the United States or its territories and possessions including the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) for employment outside the area of recruitment or from which transferred:

A.
Persons employed locally who: (a) were originally recruited from a United States area (other than the area of employment); have been continuously employed by other Federal agencies; United States firms, interests, or organizations; international organizations in which the United States Government participates; or foreign governments, and whose conditions of employment provided for the return transportation to United States area; or (b) were at the time of their employment absent for the purpose of travel or formal study from their residence in a United States area, and who during such temporary absence have maintained residence in such area of origin but outside the area of employment.

B.
Persons who are not normally residents of the overseas area and who are discharged from service in the Armed Forces of the United States to accept employment with the Department. The date on which an eligible employee becomes subject to the 360 hours leave ceiling is (a) the date of entry on duty when employed locally, (b) the date of arrival at a post of regular assignment for duty, or (c) the date on which the employee begins to perform duty in an overseas area when such duty is required to be performed en route to the post of regular assignment.

Full-time employees on an uncommon tour of duty. The maximum amount of annual leave, other than restored annual leave, which a full-time employee assigned to a 72-hour workweek and receiving pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1) may accumulate and carry forward into a succeeding year may not exceed 432 hours at the beginning of the first complete biweekly pay period occurring in any year.

The maximum amount of annual leave, other than restored annual leave, which a full-time employee assigned to a 56-hour workweek and receiving pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1) may accumulate and carry forward into a succeeding year may not exceed 336 hours at the beginning of the first complete biweekly pay period occurring in any year.

When an employee on an uncommon tour of duty moves to a position under a common tour of duty, any annual leave which was accumulated while under the uncommon tour of duty and which is in excess of the limits applicable to a position under a common tour of duty, shall become the employee's individual leave ceiling for purposes of carryover into succeeding leave years. This individual ceiling is applicable until the employee carries a smaller accumulation of annual leave to a succeeding leave year, at which time this smaller accumulation or 30 days (240 hours), whichever is greater, becomes the employee's new leave ceiling.

Part-time employees. Part-time employees may accumulate not more than 240 hours, or 360 hours of annual leave in the case of employees stationed overseas, on the same basis that full-time employees accumulate 240 hours or 360 hours of annual leave.

Recredit of ceiling when reemployed. When an employee who had a leave ceiling of more than 240 hours is reemployed during the time covered by his or her annual leave lump-sum payment, the employee's new leave ceiling is determined (at the end of the current leave year) as follows: any annual leave lump-sum payment hours covered by the period of separation are added to the leave used by the employee during the current leave year. If this total exceeds the amount of leave earned during the current leave year, the excess is subtracted from the employee's previous leave ceiling. The resulting figure (if still more than 240 hours) is the employee's new ceiling. This computation is correct even when separation and reemployment occur in different leave years (38 Comp. Gen. 91).

Scheduling and Granting Annual Leave

Supervisors should consult with employees about their vacation plans not later than March 1 of each year in order to make up a vacation schedule which accommodates the employees' preferences and the needs of the organization. Form CD-101, Leave Chart, or a comparable schedule may be used to record approved vacations and other anticipated periods of absence such as absence for military training. When an employee does not take leave as scheduled, it should be rescheduled promptly in order to avoid the risk of leave forfeiture.

As a matter of Federal regulation (5 CFR 630.308), annual leave which is not scheduled and approved, specifically and in writing, before the start of the third biweekly pay period which precedes the end of the leave year may not be restored regardless of illness or work-load which precluded its being used. No later than October 1 of each year, operating units should call to the attention of their employees the statutory leave forfeiture requirements. Excess leave which is not timely scheduled may be approved for use late in the leave year as the work situation may permit; but if forfeited, there can be no consideration of restoring such leave. An employee's failure to request the use of excess annual leave, or voluntary failure to use any excess annual leave that was approved, will be considered to be by the employee's choice and the leave will not be restored.

Charging Annual Leave

Minimum charge for leave. Unless an operating unit has established a policy or negotiated an agreement to charge annual leave in quarter-hour increments, the minimum charge to annual leave will be one hour. Additional leave will be charged in corresponding units. Where the leave charge exceeds the period of absence, the employee will not be required to work for the period between the time of actual absence and the time charged to leave.

Holidays and nonworkdays. Annual leave may not be charged for absence on holidays or regular nonworkdays or during periods when overtime has been scheduled.

Per diem and per hour employees. Leave is charged only for absences occurring during the first 40 hours of the regularly scheduled work week for which compensation is paid at straight-time rates, or for only the first eight hours of any day if the employee is entitled to payment for over-time after the eight-hour duty period. Leave will not be charged for absence during periods when overtime has been scheduled.

Part-time employees. Leave is charged for absences from regularly scheduled duty.

Employees on mobility assignments, Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignments or sabbaticals. Leave is charged for most annual leave absences. For employees on an IPA or sabbatical at an institute of higher education, this includes annual leave for periods of school closure such as semester or vacation breaks, unless reporting back to duty. Note however, that leave should not be charged for brief periods of absence from the educational institution or when not attending class, if the employee is directly engaged in school-related activities such as conducting research, studying for exams, or participating in classroom-directed workgroups. While on assignment, supervisors continue to have the discretion to decide when and in what amount leave may be approved and all established procedures for requesting and reporting leave usage remain in effect.

Granting Advanced Annual Leave

Employees may request and be granted annual leave which is already to their credit or which is expected to accrue under their current appointment by the close of the leave year.

An employee must request advanced annual leave by submission of an SF-71 annotated to show "advanced annual leave." Supervisors authorized to approve advanced leave should have reasonable assurance that the employee will be in a duty status long enough to repay or liquidate the advanced leave granted. When it is known at the time the advanced leave is requested that the employee will not be returning to duty, advanced annual leave may not be granted (25 Comp. Gen 874).

When an employee has been granted the maximum amount of advanced leave he or she is eligible to be granted in a leave year, further grants of advanced leave cannot be approved. In cases where the employee is subsequently required to be absent from duty and other types of leave are not appropriate for the absence, the employee may be granted leave without pay for the duration of an approved absence.

Liquidation of advanced annual leave. When an advance of leave is granted, the employee must be advised that if such leave is not liquidated by subsequent accruals or a cash payment (to be arranged by and with the consent of the agency), upon separation the employee must either refund the amount paid for the period representing the indebtedness or have deducted that amount from any pay due the employee. A refund is not required when an employee: dies; retires for disability; resigns or is separated because of disability which is the basis of the separation as determined by his agency, and supported by acceptable medical evidence; or enters active military duty with a right of restoration.

Substitution of Annual Leave for Sick Leave

An approved absence otherwise chargeable to sick leave may be charged to annual leave if the employee so requests before the employee's right to have the absence charged to sick leave has been exercised. Annual leave may not be substituted for sick leave previously granted and recorded where the substitution is solely for the purpose of avoiding forfeiture of annual leave by the employee (31 Comp. Gen. 524). However, advanced sick leave may be liquidated by a charge against annual leave retroactively if the substitution is made before the annual leave would other-wise be forfeited and if the annual leave would have been granted for current use if requested by the employee. A retroactive substitution of leave subject to forfeiture is also allowable if the illness for which annual leave is to be charged began well before the end of the year and the employee did not control the charging of all the time to sick leave (B-178583, June 14, 1973).

Special Leave Procedures

When an employee appears to be misusing the procedures for request and approval of leave (for example, by chronic requests for unplanned emergency leave under dubious circumstances), the employee may be required to comply with special leave procedures more stringent than those applied to other employees. For example, the employee may be required to notify the leave-approving official personally of an unanticipated absence, or to document with evidence any unscheduled, emergency absences. An employee who is being placed on special leave procedures must be notified in writing, in advance, of the procedures and their duration, and the possible results of non-compliance. A supervisor considering leave restrictions is encouraged to consult with his or he servicing HRO before taking such action.

Restoration of Forfeited Leave

Heads of operating units may authorize restoration of annual leave (to eligible leave earning employees, including SES members) which is in excess of an individual employee's maximum accumulation for carryover into a new leave year when the forfeiture of leave is caused by illness, administrative error, an exigency (or extended exigency) of the public business. This authority may be redelegated subject to the following considerations:

  • In the case of forfeiture due to administrative error, the approving official must be one level higher in authority than the organization responsible for the error or its correction.

  • When an approving official has a personal interest in the decision either as a member of the immediate working unit affected or as a person who might benefit from the decision, that official shall recuse himself or herself, and the decision shall be made by a higher level official.

Illness. Annual leave which was properly scheduled (or rescheduled) and approved for use before the end of the leave year and which must be forfeited solely because of an employee’s illness occurring or lasting so late in the leave year that the leave could not be used shall be restored in the amount the employee was prevented from using.

Annual leave restored for this reason must be credited to a separate leave account and must be scheduled and used no later than the end of the leave year which ends two years after the date the employee is determined to be recovered and able to return to duty; otherwise it is again forfeited without the possibility of restoration. For example, annual leave restored in February 1992 would have to be used before the end of the 1994 leave year.

An approving official shall not restore leave forfeited because of illness when:

  • The employee could have reasonably foreseen the absence which would preclude the use of excess annual leave as in planned surgery or therapy or normal maternity cases);

  • The employee neglects to reschedule annual leave not used because of illness;

  • An employee recovers soon enough to use excess annual leave; or

  • The illness was that of a family member and not the employees.

An employee retains the option to have an absence recorded as annual leave rather than sick leave but not retroactively. Where appropriate, a supervisor should remind a sick employee of this option when it appears that the employee may end the leave year with excess annual leave. The employee should be made aware of the value of saving the sick leave and the difficulty of having to use restored annual leave along with regular accrued leave in the year ahead. However, a decision to use sick leave which results in a forfeiture of annual leave will not preclude the employee from requesting restoration.

Administrative error. When by correction of an administrative error an employee's adjusted leave credits exceed the amount that could have been carried forward from past leave years, a statement of the circumstances must be prepared for the appropriate approving official. When that official is satisfied that restoration of excess leave is proper under the terms of this paragraph, the employee must be notified that all such excess leave is being credited to a leave account separate from his or her regular annual leave account. Annual leave restored for this reason must be scheduled and used no later than the end of the leave year which ends two years after the date the leave is restored, or it is forfeited without possibility of restoration. For example, annual leave restored in June 1992 by correction of administrative error would have to be used before the end of the 1994 leave year.

Administrative error encompasses such correctable matters as an incorrect determination as to previous service creditable for leave purposes; an inaccurate date for movement from one leave-earning category to another; failure to maintain a proper leave ceiling for an overseas employee; a mistaken separation during reduction in force; or a failure by a supervisor to act upon an employee's timely request for leave, which results in a forfeiture.

In the case of a former employee who would benefit from correction of an administrative error in his or her leave record, annual leave in excess of the individual's leave ceiling may be liquidated by a final lump sum payment under the following conditions:

  • The individual's last entitlement to a lump sum payment was as an employee of the Department, and the payment is based on the salary rate at that time. (If the individual was employed thereafter by another Federal agency under a leave system, correction responsibility falls to that agency); and

  • The individual (or someone acting in his or her behalf) must file claim for the lump sum payment within three years of discovery or notification of the error. (When the individual is unaware of this benefit, notice of entitlement to a lump sum payment and instructions as to how to claim it must be sent to the employee or survivor after the decision by the appropriate approving official.)

When it is clear that an administrative error occurred and that an adjustment of the leave should be made in favor of the employee or former employee, but official records are not available to determine the precise amount of annual leave to be restored, an approving official may make a reasonable estimate of such leave and must include in the record such official corroboration for the estimate as may be available.

Exigency of the public business. When leave scheduled and approved specifically and in writing before the start of the third biweekly pay period which precedes the end of the leave year is canceled because of an exigency of the public business without the opportunity of its being rescheduled before the end of the leave year, it shall be restored to a separate leave account in the amount that was forfeited. An approving official must determine that a true exigency of the service existed, that the cancellation of leave was necessary, and that the restoration of leave accords with procedural and regulatory guidance contained in this policy.

Annual leave restored for this reason must be scheduled and used no later than the end of the leave year which ends two years after the date of termination of the exigency. For example, if leave is for-feited at the end of 1992 because of an exigency which does not end until April 1993, the restored leave must be used by the end of the 1995 leave year.

An exigency of the public business may be considered to exist when the necessity requiring forfeiture of excess annual leave arises from circumstances which are beyond the control of the employees affected, which could not reasonably have been anticipated, and which make it impracticable to substitute employees to get the work done, or not in the public interest to grant affected employees the use of excess leave. An exigency of the public business may not be deemed to exist solely because of the pressure of normal workloads, seasonal variations in work, or other situations which careful scheduling might obviate.

An obvious exigency may arise in connection with a natural disaster or other public emergency; it may arise, too, when a particular program encounters sudden public attention or importance, or when a specific project runs beyond its expected completion or is at some crucial phase at the end of the leave year. For an individual employee, an exigency may arise because of some unforeseen public business occurring toward the end of the leave year and preventing the planned use of the annual leave, e.g., a sudden call to jury duty, or a call to military duty to preserve public order.

Particular scrutiny should be given to proposals to restore leave to employees who have forfeited leave in recent years or who are still using leave restored after a previous forfeiture. Such proposals are not to be approved unless there is evidence that the employee made reasonable efforts to schedule and use annual leave throughout the year.

Extended exigency of the public business. An extended exigency means an exigency of such significance as to (a) threaten the national security, safety, or welfare; (b) last more than 3 calendar years; (c) affect a segment of an agency or occupational class; and (d) preclude subsequent use of both restored and accrued annual leave within the regular two year time limits as specified in previous paragraphs of this policy.

Annual leave restored because of an extended exigency must be scheduled and used within a time period that equals twice the number of full calendar years, or parts thereof, that the exigency existed. This time period begins at the beginning of the leave year following the leave year in which the exigency is declared to be ended.

Requesting restoration of leave. Requests for restoration of annual leave may be made by CD-479, Request for Restoration of Annual Leave, or memorandum to the approving official. The CD-479 or memo must provide the following information:

  • The reason leave was forfeited or could not be used (illness, exigency or extended exigency of the service) together with a concise explanation of the facts. In the case of correction of an administrative error, the memo or CD-479 shall provide a description of the error and the reasons it occurred, and a summary reconstruction of the employee's leave record;

  • The dates and amounts of leave that were scheduled in the past leave year including the documents (or copies) on which the leave was requested and approved;

  • The inclusive dates of the forfeited leave;

  • The number of hours to be restored; and

  • A schedule for use of the restored leave (along with regular annual leave). The schedule should be specific enough to satisfy the approving official that repeated forfeitures will be unlikely.

A memo request for leave restoration must be endorsed by the employee's supervisor and contain signature blocks for the approving official’s approval or disapproval of the request.

Approving Official Responsibilities. The approving official is responsible for ensuring that the documentation supporting the employee's request is proper and that it fully supports the approval or disapproval determination in accordance with provisions of law and regulation as outlined in this policy.

If the request for leave restoration is disapproved, the approving official shall put in writing his or her reason(s) for the determination. A copy of the CD-479 or memorandum and disapproval statement shall be returned to the employee via the employee's supervisor.

The Human Resources Office must be sent a copy of the CD-479 or memo approving restoration of leave so that the restored hours can be entered in the employee's automated leave record.

The files supporting requests for leave restoration are the responsibility of the approving official or a designee and will be maintained in accordance with the Privacy Act and General Services recordkeeping regulations.

Timeframes. Requests for leave restoration must be made as soon as administratively feasible, but not later than one year after the forfeiture of the annual leave. If the ending date of the exigency or illness is not known at the beginning of the new leave year, the approving official may approve restoration of the forfeited leave provisionally. If restoration of forfeited leave is approved during a continuing exigency, the employee may use restored leave before the exigency has officially ended.

Leave restored for more than one reason may be treated as a single block of restored leave except when the periods of such leave terminate in different leave years.

Forfeiture of Restored Annual Leave

Any restored annual leave unused at the expiration of the established time limits is forfeited and there is no further right to restoration. Administrative error may not be a basis to extend the time limit for the use of restored annual leave. This is true even if the error results in the failure to establish a separate leave account, set the date for expiration of the time limit or properly advise the employee of leave restoration rules. (Comp. General B-188993, December 12, 1977; B-213380, August 20, 1984; and B-256975. October 11, 1994.)

Aliens and National Employees

Aliens and national employees who occupy positions outside the United States may, at the discretion of the operating unit concerned, accrue and be granted annual leave in accordance with provisions of this policy. In lieu of applying the standard leave regulations to these employees, units may establish leave privileges and regulations for these employees based on local prevailing practices. However, leave may not exceed the amount granted to citizen employees, and the maximum accumulation of annual leave for locally recruited and national employees may not exceed 240 hours at the beginning of the first complete biweekly pay period in any year.

Leave Before Separation

Federal civilian employees, under certain circumstances, may be allowed to extend their separation date through the use of accrued annual leave, a practice known as “terminal leave.” On December 21, 1944, the U.S. Congress passed P.L. 78-525 (58 Stat. 845) which established the annual leave lump-sum payout process (see 5 U.S.C. § 5551) and generally ended terminal leave outside of the uniformed services and armed forces. Due to subsequent statutes, regulations and Comptroller General Opinions, terminal leave may be appropriate under the following narrow exceptions:

    1. The employee takes annual leave during part of the last day of pay status (Comptroller General Opinion B-190374, January 20, 1978);

    2. The employee takes annual leave before separation, but is present on duty for the last administrative workday before separation (Comptroller General Opinion B-223876, June 12, 1987);

    3. The employee is on approved sick leave pending approval of his or her disability retirement application (Comptroller General Opinion B-206515, April 23, 1982);

    4. The employee is being involuntarily separated due to reduction in force or transfer of function and intends to remain on the agency’s rolls to establish eligibility for a retirement annuity or for health insurance during retirement (See 5 USC § 6302(g), 5 CFR § 351.606(b) and 5 CFR § 630.212); or

    5. When the “exigency of the service” determines that administrative authority should allow terminal leave approval when the separation is known in advance (Comptroller General Opinion B-120074, August 10, 1954). Principal human resource managers are authorized to make such determinations.

Use of Annual Leave to Establish Retirement Eligibility or Continuance of Health Benefits

Employees who are being involuntarily separated due to a reduction in force (RIF),a transfer of function, or an adverse action due to an employee’s decision to decline relocation may elect to use annual leave to remain on the agency’s rolls for the purpose of establishing initial eligibility for immediate retirement (including discontinued service or voluntary early retirement), and to ensure continuance of health benefits.

Annual leave that may be used for the above purposes includes all accumulated, accrued, and restored annual leave to the employee’s credit prior to the effective date of the RIF, transfer of function, or relocation and annual leave accrued while in a paid leave status after the effective date of the RIF or relocation. Operating units have the authority to approve the use of donated annual leave by approved leave recipients for the above purposes. Advanced annual leave including any portion credited to an employee’s leave account after the effective date of the RIF or relocation may not be used under this heading.

Annual Leave While on Official Travel

Subject to supervisory approval, employees may use annual leave while traveling on official Departmental business. Per diem and other travel expenses will be discontinued for any day in which an employee’s leave status exceeds one-half or more of the established daily working hours.

Annual Leave Buy Back

An employee may buy back annual leave and restored annual leave used during a period of disability while employed at the Department that is later determined to be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Program. Annual leave repurchased by the employee that causes the employee’s leave balance to exceed the applicable maximum carryover amount (e.g., 240 hours, 360 hours, etc,) will be forfeited unless that amount subject to forfeiture has been previously approved for restoration. If the repurchased leave was restored annual leave, which must be used within two years, and the two year period has elapsed, that leave is automatically forfeited.

Updated January 18, 2006 – added section “Members of the Senior Executive Service, Senior Foreign Service, and Employees in Senior-Level and Scientific and Professional Positions”

Updated July 2008 – Leave accruals and ceilings for SL/STs updated.




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