Fedweek

The White House budget proposes to combine sick leave and annual leave into paid time off, and to reduce the total number of days but is scant on the details.

The Trump administration has released additional documents as a follow-up to last week’s budget proposals for fiscal 2020, making clear — as was assumed but not specified last week — that the White House once again is targeting leave and within-grade raise policies.

The latest documents include those proposals along with requests contained in the initial budget plan to provide no pay raise for federal employees in 2020, to require most to pay more toward their retirement benefits and to erode the value of those benefits for both current and future retirees.

Repeats of prior proposals

Like last week’s proposals, the new ones are repeats of ideas that did not clear Congress in the prior two years even with both the House and Senate in Republican hands, and which face even stronger opposition now with Democrats running the House.

On leave, the administration again is proposing to combine annual leave and sick leave into “paid time off,” which it says would “grant employees maximum flexibility . . . while the total leave days would be reduced.”

It does not say by how much, nor does it address how to reconcile the differences between the two types of leave, such as the limits on carrying unused annual leave, but not sick leave, from one year to the next, and the ability to credit unused sick leave, but not annual leave, toward a retirement benefit calculation.

Meanwhile, it proposes creating a short-term disability program, although also with no detail. That idea, also proposed but not detailed last year, was last explored seriously about a decade ago when it was dropped after an initial study showed a high potential cost in premiums, all of which would have been paid by the enrollees.

Also again proposed is extending the waiting periods between within-grade raises in the federal pay systems — primarily the GS and wage grade systems — that have that structure. Those raises are paid every one, two or three years until an employee reaches the top step of a grade, when they stop. The document does not say by how much they would be extended; last year’s proposal would have added a year to each.

It further says that agencies should make better use of their authority to reward good performers. However, it does not seek, as it did last year, a $1 billion fund for that purpose — another idea that never was detailed and was not actively considered in Congress.

It says only that OMB will issue guidance “to ensure agencies use their awards funding to reward their most critical employees, with the best performance.”