Expert's View

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Ahh, sick leave! While you can you use it when you’re not feeling well and for other medical reasons as we described last week you can also use it for purposes which may not have occurred to you. Let’s look at the main ones.

Note: The policies regarding sick leave for childbirth and adoption are in addition to the entitlement to substitute paid time for the unpaid 12 weeks of leave available for parental purposes under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Also note that while the FMLA allows for taking unpaid leave within a 12-month period that starts before a birth or adoption, paid leave can be substituted only during the 12-month period after such an event; therefore in many cases sick leave would be used for parental purposes before.


If you are a birth mother, you are entitled to use your accrued sick leave for medical appointments, hospitalization, and a period of recuperation following your child’s birth. If you are the child’s father, you can take up to 12 weeks of accrued sick leave each year to accompany the birth mother to prenatal appointments, to be with her during her hospitalization, and/or to care for her during her recovery. In either case, the only requirement is that you provide your supervisor with evidence of the pregnancy and subsequent incapacitation.

Once the child is born, as parents you can use up to 12 weeks of accrued sick leave each year to care for your child if he or she has a serious health condition. Further, each of you can use up to 13 days of that 12-week period to care for your unwell child or to go with the child to medical, dental or optical appointments. To validate your request to take sick leave, your agency may ask for evidence of your child’s illness or treatment.

If you haven’t accumulated enough sick leave to cover all the time you need to take off, you can ask you agency to advance you sick leave for the approved purposes mentioned above. In general, the maximum sick leave they can advance is the amount you would earn between the time you request it and the end of the leave year. If you run out of sick leave, you can apply for donated sick leave under your agency’s voluntary leave transfer or leave bank program. However, donated leave may only be used for a medical emergency.

If you are adopting a child, you can use your accrued sick leave for purposes relating to that adoption, such as appointments with an adoption agency, social workers and attorneys, court proceedings, required travel and any periods of time when you are required to care for your adopted child. While your agency may require acceptable evidence of the need for you to use that sick leave, there is no limit on the amount of accrued sick leave you can use for adoption purposes. However, if you don’t have enough sick leave, you can ask your agency to advance you some. The rules are the same as those for childbirth.

Note: For either childbirth or adoption, you may not use sick leave to bond with a newborn or care for a healthy child. However, with supervisory approval, you can use annual leave or leave-without-pay for those purposes.

General Family Care or Bereavement
You can use up to 13 days of accrued sick leave in a year to care for a family member who is incapacitated because of physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, and also for medical, dental or optical exams or treatment. A list of family members who qualify for this purpose is in a fact sheet at

The same 13-day rule applies if you need to make arrangements to attend a funeral for a family member or someone who meets the definition of family member. No minimum sick leave balance is required on your part. If you don’t have enough hours in your account, you can ask your agency to advance you up to 104 hours. Alternatively, with your supervisor’s approval, you can take annual leave.


Basics of Sick Leave for Federal Workers

Annual Leave, One of Top Benefits to Federal Employees

Benefits Upon Passing of a Federal Employee or Retiree

Retirement Income Myths

The Federal Retirement Deal (It’s a Very Good One!)

TSP Outlines Strings Attached to Upcoming Investment ‘Window’

Leaving Federal Service? Go Out With Class

When Should a Federal Employee Apply for Social Security Benefits?

Federal Retirement Mistakes to Avoid

Federal Retirement: When Age Isn’t Just a Number

FERS & CSRS: What Happens to Your Annuity if You Come Back?

FERS Retirement Guide 2022