Reg Jones Expert's View

Sick leave is one of the government’s high-value benefits. Not only does it help when you are ill but it can also be used in other cases, such as childbirth, adoption, absence for funerals, and family care and bereavement.

Full-time employees get 13 days a year (part-time employees get prorated amounts) with no limit on the carryover year to year, meaning that some employees have a substantial amount to their credit at the end of their careers. Whatever amount you will have, you’re due for a payoff when you retire. No, you won’t get a lump-sum payment for it the way you would for annual leave but it will be used to increase the amount of your annuity.

When you retire, any unused sick leave hours will be converted into retirement service credit.

Under CSRS, each year of service after the first 10 increases a benefit by 2 percent. Thus, each month of unused sick leave will increase your annuity by 1/6 of 1 percent. 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.

Under FERS, each year of service will increase your annuity by 1 percent, each month by .0833 percent. If you retired at age 62 or later with at least 20 years of service, the multiplier would be increased from 1 percent to 1.1 percent or .0916 per month.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. For retirement calculation purposes, days are considered to be 5.797+ hours long. That figure is derived by dividing 2,087 – the number of work hours in a year – by 360. Why not 365? Because annuity payments are based on 12 30-day months. As a result, an annuity month is approximately174 hours long.

After extra retirement months are counted up and credited under that formula (including both days actually worked beyond the last full month and those credited from unused sick leave), any days beyond the last full month are discarded.

FYI. 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 portion. Any sick leave hours above that will be credited to your FERS portion.

There’s a few facts I haven’t mentioned. First, sick leave 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. That’s true even if you are a FERS employee who retires under the MRA+10 provision and defers the receipt of your annuity to a later date to reduce or eliminate the 5 percent per year age penalty.

Second, if you resign from the government before you are eligible to retire and later come back to work, those unused sick leave hours will be restored.

Third, if you are hired 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 earned while on the job) when you retire again. So, your annuity won’t be recomputed to include that new period of service.

Fourth, 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.

Read more on sick leave credit for federal retirement at ask.FEDweek.com