Expert's View

Reg Jones

The Trump administration has signaled interest in eliminating sick leave as a separate category and instead combining it with annual leave – an idea that would require a change in law, and thus approval of Congress.

To see what effect that would have if approved, we first need to look at the numbers.

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Annual leave

Under current law, full-time employees with less than 3 years of service earn 4 hours of annual leave for each pay period. Those with 3 years but fewer than 15 earn 6 hours per pay period, plus 10 hours in the last pay period. And those with 15 or more years of service earn 8 hours per pay period. Looked at on an annual basis, that coverts to 13 days, 20 days, and 26 days.

Sick Leave

All employees, regardless of their length of service, earn 4 hours of sick leave per pay period or 13 day per year.

Combined leave under a revised system

Put those number together into a new form of leave that would be called simply “paid time off” and you’d have employees with less than 3 years of service earning 26 days of leave per year, those with 3 but fewer than 15 years earning 33 days, and those with 15 or more years earning 39 days. What could be wrong with that?

I’ll tell you what might be wrong. As I understand it, all those hours would fall under the yearend “use or lose” provision of law that currently applies only to annual leave. In other words, for most employees the maximum amount of leave you could carry from one leave year to the next would be 240 hours. You would no longer be able to accumulate sick leave without limit.

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There are two downsides to eliminating sick leave, one potential, the other very real. First, if you had a situation where you needed to use more than your accumulated leave and no one was willing to donate some of their annual leave to help you, you’d be put on leave without pay (LWOP). Second, you would no longer be able to used accumulated sick leave to increase the amount of your annuity when you retire.