Reg Jones Expert's View

Sick leave is the gift that keeps on giving. Not only can you use it when you’re ill but also in many other situations, such as childbirth, adoption, absence for funerals, and family care and bereavement. And good as those benefits are, nothing can compare with the payoff you’ll get when you retire. Any unused hours can increase your annuity, sometimes by a lot.

At retirement, any unused sick leave hours will be converted into retirement months. By law, 2,087 hours equals one year of service. If you are a CSRS retiree, each month of unused sick leave will increase your annuity by 1/6th of 1 percent. So, for example, if you have six months of sick leave, it will be increased by 1 percent. If you have a full year it will be increased by 2 percent. If you are a FERS retiree, each year of sick leave will increase your annuity by 1 percent, each month by .0833 percent. If you retire at age 62 or later with at least 20 years of service, the multiplier will be increased from 1 percent to 1.1 percent per year.

FYI, annuities are based on years and full months of service. Therefore, the amount of credit you’ll get for your unused sick leave will depend on whether you have any days of actual service that don’t add up to a full month. Those “leftover” days will be converted into retirement hours and added to your unused sick leave hours. For retirement purposes, all days are 5.797+ hours long. That figure is derived by dividing 2,087 – the number of work hours in a year – by 360 – because annuity payments are based on 12 30-day months. Any days that don’t add up to a full month are discarded.

If you are a FERS employee who will have a CSRS component in your annuity (a “mixed” annuity), any sick leave hours up to the maximum number you had when you transferred to FERS will be credited to your CSRS annuity component. Any sick leave hours above that amount will be credited to your FERS annuity component.

Note: While sick leave can be used to increase your annuity, it can’t make you eligible to retire. You first have to meet the age and service requirements to do that. Also, if you leave government before you are eligible to retire and later apply for a deferred annuity, you won’t get any credit for your unused sick leave. You can have your sick leave balance restored if you are rehired by the government.

More on Sick Leave Credit for Federal Retirement at ask.FEDweek.com