Reg Jones Expert's View

Last week we covered annual leave, now let’s take a look at sick leave. The original purpose of sick leave was to allow employees to be absent from work either because of physical or mental illness that resulted in their being incapable of performing their duties or because they needed time off to receive medical, dental or optical exams or treatment. Since then, the reasons for which sick leave may be used have expanded. It can now be used for such things as adoption, absence for funerals, and family care and bereavement. However, it has another value. Those hours will be used to increase your annuity.

At retirement, any unused sick leave hours will be converted into retirement months. If you are a CSRS retiree, 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.

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.

Annuities are based on years and full months of service. Therefore, how much 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. If you do. 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. 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. When the extra months are counted up, any days that don’t add up to a 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.

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

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. However, 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.

On the other hand, if you return to work for the government at some point in the future, those unused sick leave hours will usually be restored. However, if you are hired into a position where you can receive both your annuity and the full salary of your position, when you once again retire you won’t get any credit for that unused sick leave or any that you earn while on the job. That’s because your annuity won’t be recomputed to include that new period of service.