Expert's View

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The 2019 leave year ends on Saturday, January 4, 2020 and the 2020 leave year begins on Sunday, January 5. With only two weeks left in the leave year, I want to summarize how much of it you can carry over from one year to the next, and what you’ll get in a lump-sum payment when you retire.

Let’s start with a look at how you accrue annual leave. If you have fewer than three years of service, you earn 4 hours per biweekly pay period (13 days a year). Between 3 and 15 years of service, 6 hours per pay period (20 days a year). After you reach 15 years of service, you earn 8 hours per pay period (26 days a year). Those amounts are prorated for part-time employees. 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.


If you are in the Guard or Reserves, credit is given for active duty service time during your federal career, including active duty for training. If you are a retired member of the armed forces, credit is limited to actual service during a war declared by Congress or while participating in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign ribbon is authorized or for active duty service that was based on a disability received as a direct result of armed conflict or caused by an instrumentality of war incurred in the line of duty during a war.

At an agency’s discretion, credit may also be given to newly appointed employees (or former employees who have had a break in service of at least 90 days), but only if they have skills or experience that relate to the duties of the position to which they are being appointed.

The number of hours of annual leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next depends on your employment category. GS and wage grade employees can carry over a maximum of 240 hours (30 days). Many long-time employees are carrying forward a large unused annual leave balance, in many cases at or near the limit. However, if you have any hours of leave above that level at the end of the leave year, you’ll lose it.

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

If you are employed overseas, you can carry 560 hours (45 days). If you are a Postal Service bargaining unit employee, you can carry 440 hours (55 days). Postal Service Executive and Administrative Schedule employees can carry a total of 560 hours (70 days).

At Retirement
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.

All other employees who retire before the end of the leave year will get a lump-sum payment for all their accrued and unused annual leave. That amount will be based on the hourly rate of basic pay you would have received if you had stayed on the job until your leave ran out, as we described last week.


However, note what was said earlier: if you have leave above of your carryover limit you will lose that extra amount if you retire after the start of the new leave year. If you’re looking for a reason that so many employees retire in late December or in the first few days of January, just before the new leave year begins, that’s it.