New bills have been offered in Congress to waive the “use or lose” restriction on annual leave beyond the situations covered by recently-issued OPM rules.
Generally, federal employees may carry forward no more than 30 days from one leave year to the next (the current leave year ends January 2) and forfeit any excess. That doesn’t apply, though, if employee was unable to use leave for certain reasons including an “exigency of the public business”—although only if the employee had scheduled to use the leave before a cutoff date, which this year will be November 21.
Under interim rules OPM issued in August, employees designated as performing work “to support the nation during a national emergency,” including the Coronavirus pandemic, are to have any excess deemed to have been scheduled by the deadline. The rules also set procedures for using the excess in future years.
The newly offered bills, HR-8457 and S-4777, would more broadly protect all employees against losing leave during a pandemic, including the present one.
Sponsors said, for example, that some employees who would not qualify under the OPM standard have not been able to take time off because of heavy workloads, while others have had to cancel planned vacations because of restrictions on travel.
The House previously passed a defense bill (HR-6395) containing language similar to that of the OPM rules, but the Senate counterpart does not contain such language and that measure remains in a conference.