OPM’s Weichert Clarifies Leave Procedures During Shutdown

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released guidance this week that clarified paid leave procedures for excepted employees.

Their recommendations come in the wake of President Donald Trump signing the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act into law, ensuring retroactive pay for furloughed and excepted employees “at the earliest date possible after the lapse in appropriations ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.” The law also includes a provision that allows employees who are required to work during the shutdown without pay to use annual leave.

Among the recommendations was the suggestion to allow employees a work schedule of greater flexibility, with more options to telework and move around start and stop times. OPM Acting Director Margaret Weichert wrote that “it is prudent, to the extent possible and appropriate, for agencies to provide additional flexibility to the Federal civil servants who are excepted from the furlough to perform necessary functions for the American people.” She also encouraged agencies “to consider the same principles that guide the granting of various types of paid leave during normal periods of funded operations, while keeping in mind any special work requirements.”

Excepted employees have two options to take leave during a shutdown. The first is to take leave via the usual procedures of requesting time off and getting approval from supervisors. The employee’s personal leave allotment would be adjusted as normal.

The second option is to talk to supervisors about being placed in a “default furlough status” for approved time off.  The agency would not charge the employee’s personal leave bank with this option, wrote OPM. OPM expects employees to choose the default furlough status to be applied to approved absences because provisions in the Government Employee Fair Treatment Act allow for retroactive pay “without charge to leave,” Weichert wrote. With this second option, approved leave hours would be considered furloughed hours.

Excepted employees could be considered absent without leave (AWOL) if they are expected to work during the shutdown but don’t show up and do not communicate their absence with their supervisor. OPM stated that employees would not receive back pay for AWOL hours.

Overall, OPM urged agencies to be as understanding of workers’ situations as possible. “While the shutdown has affected all furloughed workers of the Federal workforce, many employees performing excepted duties during the furlough have the additional hardship of losing their subsidies for childcare and transit benefits but continuing to incur childcare and commuting expenses in order to continue reporting to work,” Weichert stated.

Picture Credit: Alex Kotliarskyi via Unsplash

You can find all of GovLoop’s shutdown coverage here.

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