OPM updates sick leave policy

Friday - 12/3/2010, 2:55pm EST

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

Federal employees now can use up to 26 weeks of sick leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for a seriously injured or ill service member, or if they or one of their family members is struck by a serious communicable disease, such as pandemic influenza.

The Office of Personnel Management issued a final rule today detailing the changes to the federal sick leave policy.

OPM issued a proposed rule in August 2009 and received 12 comments. The Federal Register notice states most of the comments were positive.

"Two labor organizations, two professional organizations, and one individual were very supportive of the proposed change made to this portion of the regulations to allow an employee to use sick leave to care for a family member who has been exposed to a communicable disease when it has been determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider that the family member's presence in the community would jeopardize the health of others because of the family member's exposure to a communicable disease," the notice states.

The final rule defines communicable disease where exposure alone would jeopardize the health of others and where isolation and quarantine were authorized.

The final rule also provides details on how to categorize sick leave and FMLA leave since they are authorized under different statutes.

"To know which leave options are available, an employee must first determine the type of leave to which he or she is entitled based on the person for whom the leave is being taken," the rule states. "Since the statute provides the authority to substitute any of the employee's accrued or accumulated sick leave for any part of the 26-week period of unpaid FMLA leave, there are no limits to the amount of sick leave that can be substituted for unpaid FMLA leave to care for a covered servicemember."

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