Agencies are working under a recent law’s requirement to pay employees “as soon as possible” and “regardless of the pay cycle”

Federal employees who went unpaid due to the partial government shutdown are to start receiving their back pay as soon as today (Wednesday) in some cases, although many agencies have told their employees to expect it tomorrow, and others still have not been specific, leaving open the possibility of the pay not coming until Friday or even later.

Agencies are working under a recent law’s requirement to pay employees “as soon as possible” and “regardless of the pay cycle”; both OPM and OMB also have urged them to act promptly, as have a number of members of Congress.


Because the shutdown ended in the middle of a biweekly pay period, a special distribution was needed, short-cutting a process that normally takes about a week after an employee has filed a time and attendance report at the end of a pay period.

At some agencies employees are to receive two separate payments, each reflecting one of the two pay periods for which affected employees missed pay distributions. In some cases both payments are to come on the same day and in other cases not; the State Department for example already has paid the first and has told employees to expect the second tomorrow.

However, at others there will be only one payment covering both missed pay periods. For example, the Coast Guard has told its civilian employees that they will receive such a payment tomorrow.

OPM said in guidance to agencies that “In order to issue retroactive payments as quickly as possible, payroll providers may make some simplifying assumptions. Thus, the initial retroactive pay may not fully reflect application of all the guidance in this document regarding the treatment of hours for pay, leave, and other purposes. For example, the initial retroactive pay may not include pay for irregular overtime work performed by excepted employees during the lapse in appropriations. Payroll providers will work with agencies to make any necessary adjustments as soon as practicable.

“Agencies should follow the guidance of their respective payroll providers for the recording of time and attendance. For example, employees may be coded as if in work status during furlough periods to ensure that all employees are paid at their standard rate of pay,” it says.