Deadline to schedule 'use it or lose it' annual leave is Nov. 30

Wednesday - 11/27/2013, 1:43pm EST

Federal employees wanting to schedule "use it or lose it" annual leave only have a few days left before their excess vacation days are forfeited.

The deadline to schedule excess annual leave is this Saturday, Nov. 30, Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta reiterated in a Nov. 26 memo to agency chief human capital officers. The leave must be used by Jan. 11, the end of the leave year.

Most federal employees stationed in the U.S. are generally able to earn a maximum of 30 days that can be carried over into the new leave year, which begins Jan. 12. Employees who earn leave in excess of these amounts must use it by the end of the leave year or it doesn't carry over and is forfeited — hence the term "use it or lose it."

However, employees can request that unused leave be restored under three specific circumstances, according to Archuleta's memo. One of the circumstances is what's known as "exigency of the public business," which generally means there was an urgent need for the employee to remain at work, such as an unexpected project deadline, that forced them to forego their planned use of "use it or lose it" leave.

Employees can also request to have leave restored in the event of sickness or administrative error. Employees who have forfeited leave restored generally have about two years to expend it.

Leave that has been restored once cannot be restored again if it expires a second time. "There is nothing in existing law or regulation that allows restored annual leave to be restored a second time," the memo stated. "The government shutdown and sequestration do not extend the time limit for the use of restored annual leave."

Employees who are concerned they won't be able to use all of their "use it or lose it" leave by the end of the leave year are encouraged to donate it to the Voluntary Leave Transfer program or the Voluntary Leave Bank, both of which help out colleagues and their families experiencing medical emergencies.

In her memo, Archuleta said OPM has received "numerous questions" from agencies about how the 2013 government shutdown and sequestration budget cuts, which resulted in furloughs for thousands of employees, will affect the restoration of annual leave.

"Although the government shutdown and sequestration do not change the normal annual leave restoration procedures, OPM is using this opportunity to remind agencies of the standard procedures for the scheduling, use and restoration of annual leave," the memo stated.

During the 16-day shutdown last month, as many as 800,000 federal employees were initially sent home without pay as a result of the budget impasse. Because Congress authorized retroactive pay for furloughed workers, employees' sick leave and annual leave were also retroactively accrued and, ultimately, unaffected by the shutdown. All furlough days were treated as excused absences and did not cut into employees' paid leave balances, such as sick leave or annual leave.

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