Requesting and being approved for leave without pay is a time honored way of staying on an agency’s rolls when you’ve run out of paid leave or need to be in a nonpay status. The negative effect of taking LWOP is essentially confined to pay. You don’t get any while on LWOP, as the name suggests. However, other benefits to which you were entitled often hum right along. Let me count some of the ways.
1. Any period of time when you are on LWOP is still considered creditable service.
2. A total of six months of LWOP in any calendar year is considered to be creditable service for retirement purposes. Further, that coverage continues at no cost to you. That means you don’t have to make a deposit to get credit for that time.
3. If you were enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, your enrollment will continue for a maximum of 365 days. The government will pay its portion of your premiums and advance the amount that you would have paid if you were on salary. It’s up to you whether you pay your portion while in LWOP or after you return to work.
4. If you were enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program, that coverage will also be continued for a maximum of 12 months without cost to you or your agency. And you won’t owe a thing when you go back to work.
5. While you’re on LWOP, a portion of that time will be creditable toward receiving a within-grade increase. The amount depends on your current step.
6. If you are a full-time employee who has been on LWOP for 80 hours during a pay period, you won’t earn any annual or sick leave; however, you will in the succeeding 80-hour period of LWOP. Part-time employees earn leave on a pro-rata basis.
7. If you are facing a reduction-in-force, a total of six months of LWOP in a calendar year will be considered creditable service.
8. If you are called to active duty in the military, that period of service is different from LWOP. LWOP-MIL counts as a continuation of federal employment for all purposes – regardless of the length of time – when you return to duty. Unfortunately, there is no deposit-free ride for six months in a calendar year as there is with regular LWOP. You’ll have to make a deposit to the civilian retirement fund for the entire time you are on active duty to get credit for it in your annuity computation.
9. If you are participating in the Thrift Savings Plan, you won’t be able contribute to your account nor will you receive the automatic agency match. The same is true if you are on workers’ compensation. However, if you are on active duty and have a military services TSP account, contributions can be taken from your military pay. Even if you aren’t allowed to contribute to your account, you will be able to make interfund transfers.
Not a bad deal, eh?