DoD has issued guidance on preventing the loss of annual leave by its employees under the “use or lose” policy, an issue that has arisen there and in other agencies due to the pandemic.
Federal employees generally can carry no more than 240 hours of annual leave to the next leave year. Waivers of that limit can be granted if the employee had scheduled before a cutoff date (this year, November 21) to take the leave before the end of the current leave year (January 2, 2021) and agency mission needs prevented the employee from taking it.
The guidance carries out interim rules issued by OPM stating that employees prevented from taking leave due to work needs arising from the pandemic automatically qualify for the waiver and that they will be deemed to have met the scheduling deadline regardless of whether they actually did.
DoD told its components to apply waivers to positions “such as (but not limited to) medical or health professions, acquisition, engineering and installation infrastructure.” It says that such decisions should be made at the lowest level of authority practical, that employees designated are to be informed in writing, and that components are to continue monitoring to determine “whether the services of designated employees are still required in such a manner that the employees are prevented from scheduling and using their annual leave.”
Legislation (HR-8457 and S-4777) has been introduced in Congress, but has not advanced, to allow a general waiver of all potential use of lose situations this year on the argument that employees also were prevented from taking annual leave for reasons such as travel restrictions. That idea has not advanced, however.