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Two significant expansions of federal employee leave authorities, one involving “use or lose” annual leave and the other involving paid parental leave, will now take effect in the wake of a congressional override of President Trump’s veto of the annual defense authorization bill.

The Senate on Friday joined the House in voting to override the veto in which Trump had cited several issues unrelated to the leave provisions.


The action came just days before the start of the first federal pay period of 2021 January 3, which also is the start of the 2021 leave year. Under standard annual leave “policies, employees may carry into a new leave year only up to a certain amount, in most cases 240 hours, and must forfeit any excess. That became an issue over the last year as many federal employees were unable to take annual leave due to the pandemic-related demands of their jobs.

OPM earlier had allowed agencies to exempt employees from that “use or lose” provision by designating them as having been needed for front-line type work related to the pandemic. However, some members of Congress had pushed for broader relief, saying that even employees not meeting that standard had been prevented from using leave, as well.

The provision in the defense bill allows all employees to carry into 2021 25 percent more annual leave than the normal limit, meaning 60 hours in most cases. Any additional carryover will not count toward a lump-sum payment for unused annual leave for employees separating for retirement or other reasons, however.

The change “ensures that federal employees will not lose leave they earned but were unable to take in 2020 . . . Our frontline federal workforce is on the job in good times and bad, and the action by Congress is important recognition of their work,” the NTEU union said.

Guidance from OPM is likely regarding that provision, as well as one to make eligible—retroactive to births, adoptions or foster placements since October 1—employees who were left out of the authority for up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave that in general took effect for births and placements starting with that date.

The change primarily affects FAA employees, Title 38 medical personnel (the VA had separately extended the benefit to its own Title 38 personnel) and TSA employees other than screeners (who the law specifically included).

Postal Service employees also are excluded but the provision does not apply to them because the benefit would be subject to negotiations there.


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