Expert's View

Reg Jones

One of the benefits of federal employment is the fact that you can earn annual leave and use it for whatever reason and, within reasonable limits, when you want to. On top of that, you can receive a cash payment for any unused leave when you retire. It’s a valuable benefit and it pays to understand how it works so let’s take a look. (A recent proposal to combine annual leave and sick leave into paid-time-off – although just an idea as this stage – offers a reminder to not take your leave for granted.)



The basic rules on leave accrual are the same for all full-time General Schedule, Wage System, and Postal Service employees, regardless of the retirement system you are in. If you are a full- time employee how much you can earn depends on your years of federal service. If you have fewer than 3 years, you earn 4 hours per biweekly pay period (13 days a year). If you have more than three but fewer than 15 years of service, you earn 6 hours per pay period (20 days per year). Once you reach 15 years of service, 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 the number of years of service they have to their credit.

If you are a part-time GS, Wage or PS employee, the amount of leave you’ll earn is based on your years of service, prorated by the time you are in pay status.


How much annual leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next depends on which employment category you are in. GS and Wage employees can carry over a maximum of 240 hours (30 days). Any leave above that level is called “use of lose.” With rare exception, if you don’t use it before the leave year ends, you’ll lose it.

An overseas employee can carry over 560 hours (45 days). A Postal Service bargaining unit employee can carry over 440 hours (55 days). A Postal Service Executive and Administrative Schedule employee can carry over 560 hours (70 days).

If you are in the Senior Executive Service, you have a 720 hour limit (90 days). However, if you had more hours than that on October 13, 1994 that amount became your personal limit.


Cashing In

With one exception, if you retire before the end of a leave year, you’ll be given a lump-sum payment for all the unused annual leave you have to your credit, even if that amount is above the annual carryover limit. The amount you’ll receive will be based on the hourly rate of basic pay you would have earned had you stayed on the job until your annual leave ran out.

Here’s the exception. If you are a Postal Service bargaining unit employee, you will 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.

See also Annual Leave in the Federal Government at