Postal Service employees used 8 percent more sick leave in 2020 than in 2019, an inspector general report has said in one of the first assessments of the pandemic’s effect on that aspect of federal employment.
That included a 23 percent increase in April, a month after the pandemic was officially declared; while sick leave use moderated afterward, there was another jump late in the year along with an increase in infections nationally. As of year-end, nearly 140,000 of the roughly 630,000 postal employees had taken sick leave for a reason related to the pandemic, totaling some 18 million hours worth $360 million in salary.
The report added that while the leave at first came from employees’ personal sick leave balances, afterward some came from a special leave entitlement under the “Families First” Coronavirus relief law (an authority that expired as of year-end). Use of that authority varied among agencies, with the report saying that the USPS’s management of that benefit compared well against three other agencies it examined but did not name.
However, the report added that the challenges the pandemic raised “prevented Postal Service facility managers from consistently following the procedures in place regarding the authorization of employees using COVID 19-related leave. Additionally, early in the pandemic, many facility managers were confused on the correct leave type to grant employees, as guidance changed frequently.”
In a random sample of 192 instances of employees taking emergency paid sick leave related to the pandemic, 185 “were either missing documentation or documentation was not properly completed” with a value of more than $900,000.