One of the best benefits the federal government offers its employees is paid time off, especially annual leave and sick leave.
In this article I’ll summarize how your annual leave accrual rate is set, 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. Then we’ll move on in future articles to examine the many aspects of sick leave.
Annual leave accrual rules are the same for FERS and CSRS employees. If you have fewer than three years of service, you’ll 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’ll earn 8 hours per pay period (26 days a year). Those amounts are prorated for part-time employees according to hours worked.
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 a non-retired former member of the armed forces, you’ll get full credit for your active duty service, including active duty for training, as years of service for leave rate accrual purposes. If you are a retired former member, 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, additional service credit may also be given to newly hired employees (including former federal employees returning after a break in service of at least 90 days) for time of outside experience that relates to the duties of the position to which they are being hired.
Note: These rules for crediting toward leave accrual do not affect crediting toward retirement eligibility or calculation of retirement benefits.
How many hours of hours of annual leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next depends on your employment category. GS and sage employees can carry over a maximum of 240 hours (30 days). If you have any hours of leave above that 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 at the end of any leave year, the lower number becomes your new carryover limit.
If you are employed overseas, you can carry over 560 hours (45 days). 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).
Note: In a rare coincidence, the 2022 leave year ends December 31, same as the calendar year.
When you retire
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 for an equivalent time.