Guidance from OPM on using the new “emergency paid leave” authority notes that the law creating the fund imposes several important restrictions.
While the leave allowed for employees unable to work for certain pandemic-related reasons (see related story for list) in general is to be paid at the employee’s regular salary rate, there is a biweekly cap of $2,800 for full-time employees, which would apply to any employee earning above about $73,000; the cap is prorated for part-time employees.
Retirement deductions and any pertinent TSP investment deductions will be taken out, and the time will count toward an employee’s time of service for purposes of determining retirement eligibility and annual leave accrual rate. However, that time will not count as time served for purposes of calculating a later retirement annuity.
OPM also raised the possibility that the $570 million fund—technically, four separate funds, with special considerations for VA, FAA and TSA employees not under the Title 5 section of federal personnel law—will be exhausted before the sunset date of September 30.
“Agencies must inform employees that the granting of emergency paid leave to employees who meet the eligibility conditions is tentative and conditional upon monies being available in the fund,” says one of a series of guidance documents. “If an agency’s reimbursement request cannot be granted due to exhaustion of the fund, the emergency paid leave conditionally granted to an employee by the agency must be cancelled.”
In that case, the affected period of time will be converted to a period of leave without pay—meaning the employee would have to refund any amount received or would have to substitute another form of paid leave such as advanced annual or sick leave.
Agencies are to pay the money up-front and then file for reimbursement, it adds, and such requests cannot be submitted until the end of a pay period. If the fund is close to exhaustion, the last claims will be paid on a prorated basis.