The USPS has put in place what it is calling “interim” procedures for providing additional paid leave to its employees under a recently approved government-wide fund — “interim” because OPM still has not issued implementing guidance.
A Postal Service memo to managers addresses procedures for the “emergency federal employee leave fund” under the pandemic relief and economic stimulus law. That is a $570 million fund from which agencies can draw to provide paid leave for employees who are unable to work because they are:
– in quarantine or are ill with COVID;
– caring for a child whose school or place of care has been closed or is conducting virtual learning; or
– caring for a family member incapable of self-care whose care provider is unavailable due to COVID.
The leave is to be paid at an employee’s normal salary rate, with a biweekly cap of $2,800, with a maximum of 15 weeks between now and September 30, when the authority under the law expires.
The memo says that because OPM has not specifically defined eligibility conditions and the procedures agencies are to use, that the Postal Service is “limited in its ability to fully implement” the fund. However, it says that as an interim step, employees may put in requests indicating the reason they need the leave and must “affirmatively state that they are unable to work” for one of the cited reasons.
That applies only through March 31; requests for leave after that date “should not be approved or denied because we expect the final guidance from OPM to be issued before that date.”
Until then, managers are to approve no more than 80 hours and “should advise employees that additional requirements, including, but not limited to, producing appropriate documentation to support their need for leave, are likely to be imposed once we receive official guidance from OPM,” it adds.
The Postal Service policy apparently is the first issued by a federal agency on carrying out the fund, which already has become the topic of misinterpretation and misunderstanding – and some outright misinformation – inside and outside the federal workforce.