Reg Jones Expert's View

The 2012 leave year ends on Saturday, January 12, 2013, and the 2013 leave year begins on Sunday, January 13. So this is a good time to review one of your best benefits as a federal employee – annual leave. This week I want to explain how your accrual rate is set, how much leave you can carry over from one year to the next, and how much you will get in a lump-sum payment when you retire.



Whether you are a full-time general schedule, wage system or Postal Service employee, the amount of annual leave you can earn depends on your years of creditable federal service. Active duty and active duty for training is included in that calculation for non-retired members of the armed services. For retired members, credit is only given for actual service during a war declared by Congress or while participating in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge is issued or active duty when your retirement was based on a disability received as a direct result of armed conflict or caused by an instrumentality of war and incurred in the line of duty.

If you are newly appointed (or are a former employee who has had a break in service of at least 90 days), you may also be able to get credit for non-federal service, if you have skills or experience that relate to the duties of the position to which you are being appointed. That decision is up to your agency.

If you have fewer than three years of creditable service, you earn 4 hours per biweekly pay period (13 days a year). Between 3 and 15 years of service, 6 hours per pay period (20 days a year). After you reach 15 years of service, you earn 8 hours per pay period (26 days a year).

Senior Executive Service members and other senior level scientific and technical employees earn 8 hours of annual leave per pay period (26 days a year) regardless of their years of service.

The amount of leave you earn as a part-time GS, wage or PS employee is based on your years of service and the time you are in a pay status.


How much annual leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next depends on your employment category. GS and wage employees can carry over a maximum of 240 hours (30 days). Any leave above that level is "use or lose." If you don’t use it before the leave year ends, you’ll lose it.

If you are in the Senior Executive Service, you have a 720 hour carryover limit (90 days) unless you had more than that amount on October 13, 1994 when the limit was created. That number is your personal limit. If you fall below that limit at the end of any leave year, the lower number becomes your new limit.

If you are employed overseas, you can carry over 560 hours (45 days).

If you are a Postal Service bargaining unit employee, you can carry over 440 hours (55 days). Postal Service Executive and Administrative Schedule employees can carry over a total of 560 hours (70 days).

Cashing In

For those of you who are about to retire, this is a really timely topic. If you retire before the end of the leave year, you’ll be given a lump-sum payment for all your accrued an unused annual leave. The amount will be based on the hourly rate of basic pay you would have earned had you stayed on the job until your leave ran out. This can be a real plus in any year when there is an across-the-board pay raise. However, with no pay raise in the offing, the only financial bump you could get is if you received a step raise before you retired.

The rules are a little different for Postal Service bargaining unit employees. You can be paid for any leave you carried over from the previous year and any additional leave you earned during the year you retire, not to exceed the carryover limit for your bargaining unit.