The Defense Department has loosened the standard time limit for an employee to use the hours granted in a time-off award, allowing an unlimited period for awards made from the declaration of the pandemic March 13 through September 30.
Time-off awards—a form of recognition in which employees are granted excused absence rather than cash—typically must be used within 12 months but “many civilian employees have served in support of the DoD’s whole of government response to COVID-19 without the opportunity to use awarded time off within the one-year time limitation,” said a memo to components.
The change further applies retroactively to any awarded time that was forfeited since March 13 although there will be a time lag before that impact is reflected in the payroll system and then on leave and earnings statements, the memo says. Employees need not use a time award without an expiration date before other types of leave but they must use such awards in the order received.
The memo added that employees are encouraged to use awarded time “in a timely manner” because it is not transferrable when employees move to another agency or even another component of DoD.
The memo follows a recent one in which OPM said it would soon issue rules to allow agencies to allow employees to carry more than the typical maximum of annual leave forward into the new leave year on a determination that employees were prevented from taking leave for pandemic-related reasons. That memo also allowed for extensions of compensatory time off for travel for similar reasons but noted that law does not allow for extension of compensatory time off in lieu of overtime nor for extending the additional leave available during the first year of federal employment to veterans with a disability rating of 30 percent or more, which can be used for certain medical treatments.