Reg Jones Expert's View

Sick leave is one of the best benefits ever given to federal employees. As the name suggests, it was originally intended to be used when you are ill. However, over the years its use has been expanded to cover childbirth, adoption, absence for funerals, family care and bereavement.

Sick leave is also what I call “the gift that keeps on giving.” Here’s why. When you retire any unused sick leave hours will be credited in the calculation of your annuity. This can be a substantial increase, especially for those with long government careers or a history of using relatively little sick leave throughout their careers—or both.

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If you are under CSRS, each month of unused sick leave will increase your annuity by 1/6 of 1 percent. If you have a full year it will be increased by 2 percent.

If you are under FERS, each month sick leave will increase your annuity by 1/12 of 1 percent. If you retire at age 62 or later with at least 20 years of service, the multiplier will be increased to 1/12 of 1.1 percent. A full year’s worth would result in a boost of 1 and 1.1 percent, respectively.

At retirement, your annuity will first be calculated using your years and full months of actual service. Any days of service beyond the last full month will be converted into hours (5.8 hrs = 1 day) and added to your unused sick leave hours. Here’s where it gets a little tricky.

See also, Sick Leave Credit for Federal Retirement at ask.fedweek.com

For retirement crediting purposes, 5.797+ hours, not eight, equals one day. OPM gets that figure by dividing 2,087 – the number of work hours in a year – by 360. That’s because annuity payments are based on 12 30-day months. Therefore, approximately174 hours long equals a month of service, for annuity purposes. After those extra months are credited in the calculation, any days beyond the last full month are discarded.

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

While sick leave can be used to increase your annuity, it can’t be used to make you eligible to retire. It can only be added after you have met the age and service requirements to do that. 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 in the calculation of that benefit.

With one exception, if you return to work for the government after a break in service, unused sick leave hours will be restored. Here’s the exception. If you retire and then are rehired into a position where you can receive both your annuity and the full salary of your position, you won’t get any credit for that sick leave (or any that you earn while on the job) when you retire again.