OPM: Some furloughs could be offset with annual leave

Monday - 5/6/2013, 6:39pm EDT

Some furloughed federal employees could offset their forced time off with annual leave — but only under certain circumstances, according to updated guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

Furloughed employees are generally barred from retroactively converting their furloughs days into annual leave — even if their agency "finds sufficient funds to cover the hours the employee was in a furlough status," the guidance, which was updated April 25, stated.

However, if an agency cancels the need for planned furlough days after an employee has proactively taken more than the required number of furlough days, he or she is permitted to substitute annual leave to offset the furlough.

In its guidance, OPM provided the following example:

An agency requires employees to take 22 furlough days between April and the end of the fiscal year. The agency requires employees to take eight of those days in April, and allows the employee to choose when to take the rest. If an employee takes all 22 days in April and the agency, "due to improved financial conditions," cancels the remaining furlough days after the fact, the employee is permitted to substitute the furlough days for annual leave.

OPM's guidance is less definitve about converting furlough days into excused absences, however. In the same scenario, when an agency cancels planned furlough days after employees may already have taken the forced time off, the agency is not required to provide excused-absence designations for the excess number of furlough days taken by the employee.

OPM's guidance comes as the most dire predictions of federal furloughs have failed to pan out. Many agencies across government are revising downward the number of furlough days employees will be required to take, while others now say they don't expect furloughs at all.

The White House is also reportedly recalculating the effect of sequestration on a number of agencies, including the Defense and Homeland Security Departments and NASA.

It's unclear whether that led OPM to revise its guidance. GovExec first reported on the changes.

Federal News Radio has requested comment from OPM.

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