Last week while describing what kinds of pay are included in a lump-sum payment for unused annual leave at retirement, it occurred to me that not everyone is leaving government. There are quite a few people who a coming on board, too. And one question I regularly get is whether they can get annual leave accrual credit for non-federal work experience or experience in the armed forces.

Unlike the mechanical rules for setting annual leave accrual rates, which are based strictly on years of service as an employee, giving credit for non-federal employment is left entirely in the hands of an agency head or his designee. It’s a discretionary flexibility that agencies can use to meet their human capital needs.

So who can be considered for this extra credit? A newly-appointed employee (or a reappointed employee with a break of at least 90 calendar days after his or her last period of civilian employment) or a retired member of the active duty uniformed service.

To give such credit, the agency head or his designee must make approve your prior work experience before you enter on duty. It can’t be made retroactively. And that determination must be based on a conclusion that the skills and experiences you possess are essential to the new position and 1) were acquired through the performance of non-federal or active duty service that directly relate to the position in which you are being appointed and 2) are necessary to achieve an important agency mission or performance goal.

The amount of service credited to you can’t exceed the actual amount of service during which you performed the duties that were directly related to those of your new position. Once you’ve received that credit and have completed one year of continuous service, it will be permanently creditable for the purpose of determining your annual leave accrual rate for the duration of your career. However, if you leave government and return again, you won’t get any additional credit for the time you were employed.

FYI, with certain exceptions, if you are placed on leave without pay during that one-year period of continuous service, the time will be extended by the time you were in leave without pay. Here are the exceptions:

* you were called to active duty and placed on LWOP-US and later return to civilian service, or

* you separate or were placed on LWOP because of an on-the-job injury and recovered sufficiently to return to work.

A word to the wise. If you separate from the government or go to work for another federal agency before completing one year of continuous service, your agency will subtract the extra service credit they gave you and set a new service computation date. If you are leaving government, you’ll get a lump-sum payment for any unused annual leave. If you are transferring to another federal agency, your leave balance will go with you unless you are going to an agency that doesn’t accept such transfers. In that case you’ll receive a lump-sum payment.