Reg Jones Expert's View

By Reg Jones

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


One attractive benefit of working for the government is sick leave. Federal employees earn four hours of sick leave every pay period. It’s intended to be used when you are unable to perform your duties because of such things as physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy or childbirth, or when time off is needed for medical, dental or eye exams.


Ideally, you should arrange with your supervisor before you take sick leave; however, that isn’t always possible. The need for sick leave often comes up unexpectedly. When an illness or injury causes you to take more than three days leave, you may be asked to provide evidence that your need to take it was legitimate. Often that simply requires a note from your doctor.


For all employees, the virtue of accumulating sick leave is obvious. It provides a financial cushion if you are unable to work for an extended period of time. Every hour you use will be show up in your salary at your current rate of pay. From a payroll point of view, it will look as if you were still on the job.


For CSRS employees, there’s another virtue. At retirement, any remaining sick leave in your account will be added to your actual service time and used to increase your annuity. However, it can’t be used to meet the length of service requirement to retire or included when computing your annuity.


With the exception of registered nurses in the Veterans Health Administration (who, because of a recent change in the law, are treated like CSRS employees), FERS employees don’t share in that benefit. At retirement your unused sick leave will simply be lost. Although a bill has been introduced in the House to give FERS employees a cash payment for unused sick leave above a certain level, with a cap on the total payment, no hearings have yet been held on it, and no companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.