The end of the 2015 leave year is January 9, 2016. So it’s time to find out how much annual leave you can carry over into next year. And for those of you who are retiring, how much of that leave you can be paid for in a lump sum. I’ll begin with the basics.

Leave Accrual

The amount of annual leave you can earn depends on your years of creditable federal service. If you have three years or less service, you earn 4 hours per pay period (13 days a year). With three years but fewer than 15, you earn 6 hours per pay period (20 days a year). And with 15 years or more, you earn 8 hours per pay period (26 days a year). Senior Executive Service members and other senior level scientific and technical employees earn 8 hours of annual leave per pay period (26 days a year), regardless of their years of service.

For non-retired members of the armed forces, active duty is included when determining your years of service for leave accrual purposes. For retired members, credit is given only for actual service during a war declared by Congress or while participating in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge is issued or active duty when your retirement was based on a disability received as a direct result of armed conflict or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty.

Carryover

The amount of annual leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next depends on your employment category. While most non-Postal employees can carry over a maximum of 240 hours (30 days), Postal employees can carry over 440 hours (55 days), and those who are employed overseas can carry over 560 hours (70 days). Any leave above those amounts is called “use of lose.” If you don’t use it before the end of the leave year, you’ll lose it.

If you are in the Senior Executive Service, you have a 720 hour (90 day) carryover limit unless you had more than that on October 13, 1994 when the limit was imposed. That amount is your personal limit. If you fall below it at the end of a leave year, that lower number becomes your new limit.

If you are a Postal Service bargaining unit employee, you can carry over 440 hours (55 days). Postal Service Executive and Administrative Schedule employees can carry over a total of 560 hours (70 days).

Cashing In

In most cases, if you retire before the end of a leave year, you’ll be given a lump-sum payment for all your accrued and unused annual leave. That calculation will be based on your hourly rate of basic pay, the amount you would have earned if you had stayed at work until your leave ran out.

If you are a Postal Service bargaining unit employee, you can be paid for any leave you carried over from the previous year and any additional leave you earned during the year you retire, not to exceed the carryover limit for your bargaining unit.