What Happens to Your Pay and Benefits in a Shutdown?

By on September 25, 2013 in News, Pay & Benefits

The threat of a shutdown at the end of the month has many federal employees concerned about their pay and benefits.

OPM has provided answers on many pay and benefits questions in its document for guidance on shutdown furloughs. Below are some of the more pressing questions and answers as published by OPM.

Who are “excepted” employees?

In the context of shutdown furloughs, the term “excepted” is used to refer to employees who are funded through annual appropriations who are nonetheless excepted from the furlough because they are performing work that, by law, may continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations. Excepted employees include employees who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work. Agency legal counsels, working with senior agency managers, are determining which employees are designated to be handling “excepted” and “non-excepted” functions. See http://www.opm.gov/furlough/OMBGuidance/index.asp for copies of DOJ issuances, which provide guidance on the application of these criteria.

Who are “exempt” employees?

Employees are “exempt” from furlough if they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations. This includes employees who are not funded by annually appropriated funds. Employees performing those functions will generally continue to be governed by the normal pay, leave, and other civil service rules.

What about employees who are neither “excepted” nor “exempt”?

Employees who are funded through annual appropriations but are not designated as excepted are barred from working during a shutdown, except to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities. These employees will be furloughed.

How will employees be notified whether they have been designated to be handling “excepted” functions or not?

Each agency will determine the method and timing of notifying employees of whether they have been designated as an excepted employee.


Pay and Benefits

Will employees who are furloughed get paid?

Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period.

Will excepted employees be paid for performing work during a shutdown furlough? If so, when will excepted employees receive such payments?

Agencies will incur obligations to pay for services performed by excepted employees during a lapse in appropriations, and those employees will be paid when Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

Will employees receive a paycheck for hours worked prior to a lapse in appropriations?

Under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance issued in 1980 (below), employees will receive this paycheck. Although the payroll for the last pay period before the lapse will be processed potentially during a period of furlough, the minimum number of payroll staff necessary for this process will be excepted from furlough for the minimum time required to issue the checks, including checks for the last pay period before the lapse. This guidance can be found in OMB’s August 28, 1980, Bulletin No. 80-14, Shutdown of Agency Operations Upon Failure by the Congress to Enact Appropriations, paragraph 3.b.(1) (Appropriations and funds). OMB has reviewed and concurs in this answer.

When an employee’s pay is insufficient to permit all deductions to be made because a shutdown furlough occurs in the middle of a pay period and the employee receives a partial paycheck, what is the order of withholding precedence?

Agencies will follow the guidance on the order of precedence for applying deductions from the pay of its civilian employees when gross pay is insufficient to cover all authorized deductions found at http://www.chcoc.gov/transmittals/TransmittalDetails.aspx?TransmittalID=1477.

May an excepted employee be permitted to earn premium pay (e.g., overtime pay, Sunday premium pay, night pay, availability pay) during the furlough period?

Yes. Excepted employees who meet the conditions for overtime pay, Sunday premium pay, night pay, availability pay and other premium payments will be entitled to payment in accordance with applicable rules, subject to any relevant payment limitations. Premium pay may be earned but cannot be paid until Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

May employees take other jobs while on furlough?

While on furlough, an individual remains an employee of the Federal Government. Therefore, executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment continue to apply when an individual is furloughed (specifically, the executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct (the standards), at 5 CFR part 2635). In addition, there are specific statutes which prohibit certain outside activities, and agency-specific supplemental rules that require prior approval of, and sometimes prohibit, outside employment. Therefore, before engaging in outside employment, employees should review these regulations and then consult their agency ethics official to learn if there are any agency- specific supplemental rules governing the employee.

Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?

Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.

Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?

It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. State unemployment compensation requirements differ. Some States require a 1-week waiting period before an individual qualifies for payments. In general, the law of the State in which an employee’s last official duty station in Federal civilian service was located will be the State law that determines eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. (See the Department of Labor website “Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees” at http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/unemcomp.asp.) Agencies or employees should submit questions to the appropriate State (or District of Columbia) office. The Department of Labor’s website provides links to individual State offices at http://www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp.

May agencies deny or delay within-grade or step increases for General Schedule and Federal Wage System employees during a shutdown furlough?

It depends on how long the shutdown furlough lasts. Within-grade and step increases for General Schedule (GS) and Federal Wage System employees are awarded on the basis of length of service and individual performance. Such increases may not be denied or delayed solely because of lack of funds. However, extended periods of nonpay status (e.g., because of a furlough for lack of funds) may affect the timing of such increases. For example, a GS employee in steps 1, 2, or 3 of the grade who is furloughed an aggregate of more than 2 workweeks during the waiting period would have his or her within-grade increase delayed by at least a full pay period. (See 5 CFR 531.406(b).)

If agency performance management policies and practices require the payment of performance awards to employees, can the payment be delayed until after the shutdown furlough?

Yes. Neither law nor regulation requires agencies to pay performance awards granted under 5 U.S.C. chapters 43 and 45 and 5 CFR 451.104(a)(3). If agency performance management policies and practices require the payment of performance awards, agencies may delay payment until after the furlough when funds are available.

Will employees get paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?

No. An employee (including excepted employees) who does not work on a holiday will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough.

If there is a shutdown furlough, how does this impact a separating employee’s lump- sum payment for their unused annual leave?

In the event of a shutdown furlough, any payments incurred by the agency for an employee’s lump-sum payment will be delayed until funds are available.

© 2016 FedSmith.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from FedSmith.com.


69 Replies

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  1. Aching back says:

    I work on an Army base alongside Government contractors. When we went through the furlough last summer, they were not affected. Now with the Government shutting down, the contractors will still continue to receive their pay. Why is this all coming down on the backs of Civil Servants? Why aren’t contractors asked to carry some of the load?
    I can’t wait for the next election so I can vote against every incumbant!

    • shadowfire87 says:

      The main reason is because of the contractual obligations that the government
      enters into with those contractors. Our government should not break those
      contracts if they can fund them. Breaking those contracts will make it more
      expensive to reacquire them. There is a reason that the government hired them so it is in
      our best interest to uphold those contracts.

    • mandinka says:

      Obama isn’t running in 2014

      • kathryn says:

        You slept through your Government 101 class or you are just a hateful person that can not see through you prejudice. The president (any president) of the US has a rather limited powers and if he (or she) does not have a support of Congress he/she can not do much. President Obama had an uphill battle from the very beginig and it is unfair to blame him for everything that is wrong with this country. What is wrong it is extremist being voted into the offices and trying to push their personal agenda. What is also wrong i is no accountability for the politicians that are forgetting they are public servants and as such should represent all the constituents.

        • Brooklyn says:

          He pretends to be a ‘know-it-all’ expert about every existing Federal Agency including their inside policies. He’s retired military with way too much time on his hands and he’s never been a federal employee. Thank goodness!

          • kathryn says:

            Brooklyn, it is a good think he is not a federal employee. “Know-it-all people” are dangerous when they have any powers.

        • michael says:

          i agree Kathryn, the grudge these politicians are holding is becoming hurtfull to those of us who as Americans rely on these politicians to serve for the better needs of all the USA. These antics of not liking or supporting the current President is pissing me off and we need to support whoever is in office and then if we fail then as typical Americans we pick ourselves up and dust it off and try again with a different approach. Why these already wealthy people are getting paid and the less fortunate people do not is amazing and this needs to change! especially if they are not performing what we hired them in office to do.

          • kathryn says:

            michael, I wish more people will see it for what it is. Congress should be able to work with the president regardless of their political affiliations.

      • Oneofthem says:

        Kathryn and Michael, are you saying Aching back is a ‘know it all’ who has never been a federal employee? You just said he is retired military. That means he had at least 20 years as a federal employee – maybe you should read up on who is a federal employee! And if he’s on a military post, he is likely a civilian federal employee working for the military post-retiremement. Way too much time on HIS hands? Look at your own! Ah, trolls.

  2. fedup says:

    So if the majority federal employees are sent home, why is it that some are allowed to stay and continue working when they do not meet the criteria: “Employees who are funded through annual appropriations but are not designated as excepted are barred from working during a shutdown, except to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities. These employees will be furloughed.” For management to say there will be no favoritism, yet certain employees who are not funded via working capital, are allowed to stay and provide advice . Those same employees have specifically stated they are not subject matter experts. Those same employees have plagiarized guidance from other sources. Not only that, when employees asked questions of management, management could not respond or could not provide an adequate response. Talk about morale in the workplace. It is troubling times in the country, and this kind of stuff doesn’t help. Send them home like the rest of us. If we must go then they should too.

  3. WTF says:

    Congress should not draw any pay until everyone does.

  4. Ros says:

    I hope Obama does not give in to those Republicans. They would never do that to a white President. If he says go left, they are going right just because he said so. Stick to your guns Obama. Do not cave into the childish games that the Republicans are playing.

    • shadowfire87 says:

      They did it to President Clinton back in 1995. Race has nothing to do with this.

      • Ih8fools says:

        Race has everything to do with it; that is how he got elected. It looks like as soon as he got in office he forgot about the 45% non-minority vote that essentually elected him. We would probably been better off with Jesse or Al because we would have had lower expectations.

    • mandinka says:

      What a racist comment

  5. will work for food says:

    In a couple of days
    please tell us where to work for food

  6. Loveman says:

    This president does not have a skill of negotiation and leadership. A well state man knows how to work with everybody regardless of ideology. Obama has too much pride that prevents him to be a good leader.

    • pickles says:

      That goes the same for the Republicans in Congress who are fighting his every move just because of political party contention.

  7. NoDonkey says:

    This is what happens when the American people elect a weak, impotent and incompetent President. The guy at the top, matters. A good President would have found a way to prevent this from happening, it’s not as if we didn’t know a year ago this might happen.

    • Ih8fools says:

      I am reminded of two comments of Will Rogers that seem to apply: 1) “the problem with political jokes is that sometimes they get elected.” and 2) “be thankful we are not getting all the government we are paying for.”

    • Ih8fools says:

      I am reminded of two quotes from Will Rogers that seem to apply, 10 “the problem with political jokes is that sometimes they get elected & 2) “be thankful we are not getting all the government we are paying for.”

  8. mandinka says:

    This can be a God send. With agencies identifying non essential employee they are on their way to identify the folks who need to be RIF’

    • Nurse at Fort Carson says:

      I am a nurse at a government hospital and we are told that Fort Carson Evans Hospital will be closed except for er and inpatient. Everything else will be closed. No patients will be seen.

      • mandinka says:

        Better check the web sits I did and what you posted is NOT true

        • A Guest says:

          How would you know what the Govt Office told their employees behind the scenes? You don’t speak for them. Do you have to be a stupid a** all your life?

          • Rambo1957 says:

            Perhaps you should have checked the site yourself. He’s right.

            Scheduled appointments at Evans ACH will still be kept in the event of a partial government shutdown, unless you are personally contacted otherwise. Our patient appointing service will be open and still take requests for acute appointments. Evans ACH’s priority will be to ensure that there is minimal impact on our beneficiaries and their health care delivery. The hospital’s emergency room and inpatient services to include the Mountain Post Birthing Center will remain fully operational. All ancillary services (pharmacy, laboratory, radiology) will also remain operational. Quality and safe patient care remain our priority. Please call (719) 526-CARE (2273) to schedule and cancel appointments.

    • pickles says:

      Really? Does that include all of us at the VA who are processing disability claims for the wounded warriors and disabled veterans? Taking care of their non-emergency medical needs? What about those of us who make sure your food is safe for consumption? Those of us who work for dams and reservoirs to insure that you have safe drinking water and who generate electricity from the water ways? There are very minimal employees who will keep some of these services going, but without supporting employees, these employees will not be able to maintain the services for long on their own.
      You really do need to educate yourself on how the government interprets the word nonessential. I can assure you that they are VERY essential and without them, you would personally feel the effects.

      • mandinka says:

        Especially the ones processing claims. Its gotten so BAD that the DAV has hired folks and RV’s to drive to local chapters to help disabled Vets FIGHT the VA. My buddy in TX has his agent orange claim turned down because he listed Korat Thailand as the location…VA response their wasn’t any agent orange used in “Korea”. Another had bi lateral knee transplants. They approved 1 knee for 30% and turned the other one down since it was only a scar

    • shadowfire87 says:

      The “non-essential” government employee ranges from those who debug computer code to fix issues with service members’ records (that might prevent that service member from getting paid on time) to those who have to process new veterans’ disability compensation. Every large private company and governmental agency hires “non-essential” personnel that will not hurt operations if they are put on the sidelines. But everything will not go as smoothly or timely if you did not include them in the equation. Remember that, in this case, “non-essential” does not mean “unnecessary”.

  9. bamapenngirl says:

    I would love a more definitive definition of “exempted” employees. During the last budget discussion, the Secretary of my department or the Administrator of the Agency stated that the furloughs (if they came) would be spread across the board. “Support” personnel were just as important as the personnel who actually have to be on the job in establishments or companies in order for them to conduct business legally.

  10. HappilyRetiredFed says:

    What really bothers me is that this happens every single year. Why can’t Congress understand that it is really making them look stupid. You would think that “year after year” must mean that there is a problem. Whenever I have made a household budget I always make sure I pay myself first. If you don’t pay yourself first you definitely cant run a household. It’s not selfish to pay yourself first, it’s practical.

    • HappilyRetiredFed says:

      What I mean by pay yourself first is to fund the government, not pay Congress first. They want to settle every other debt before they pay their own employees.

  11. HappilyRetiredFed says:

    So excepted employees are the same as essential employees? Is there any guarantee that these people will receive their back pay? I remember being told that essential employees were refused any sort of leave during the furlough and would be placed on AWOL if they failed to show up for work. So what if they are truly sick and need medical treatment during a furlough?

    • theinnerring says:

      anyone who is essential/excepted who works during the shutdown WILL be paid backpay, does not require any action by congress.

      i think leave issues might be a bit sticky and not sure if you can equate furlough leave issues to shutdown but really not sure. does OPM have an guidance posted?

      • HappilyRetiredFed says:

        If this thing drags on, the essential personnel may have to wait weeks for their back pay. The sick leave issue was something mentioned to us when I was working at SSA in 2010 or 2011. The manager was telling us not to be too upset because a continuing resolution is always reached at the last minute. This year could be different and essential employees may have to come to work sick or risk AWOL.

      • pickles says:

        If it is anything like the last shutdown, we excepted workers eventually got paid (months later) and in one lump sum, which meant that they pulled a much larger amount out in taxes. We received no paycheck during the furlough.

  12. Frank Isknown says:

    VA Patient care will not be affected by a government shutdown. The Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) is already funded through FY-2014 (Sep 30, 2014). There will not be any disruption of patient care.

    • pickles says:

      However, a large portion of the disability claims process may not be working. Raters will continue to rate claims, but without supporting personnel. This will only add to the already large backlog. Veterans will be waiting longer for their disability claims to be completed.

  13. Itsjustmeagain1 says:

    This could all be behind us if only Congress allowed the Bush Tax Cuts (aka vote for me) when he left.
    To add to the speed of recovery, stop paying oil and farmers. They have a business, act like one. Will gas and food go up? Let a free market decide and not a crutch.

    • Hopeisnot_A_Plan says:

      Ahem, since Obama reauthorized those tax cuts they are now the Obama tax cuts (aka vote for me).

      • Itsjustmeagain1 says:

        The Congress reauthorized, they had the first move. The President signed it.
        The President wanted to eliminate or reduce the cuts for those over $500K, the Congress woud not agree.

  14. SickofIT says:

    All of Congress should be fired. What a bunch of juveniles that display complete incompetence when it comes to doing their job.

    • Brooklyn says:

      I’m all for a TOTAL RECALL. These guys suck and can’t do their jobs. Anybody would be better than them night now. And then they have the nerve to talk about Feds who don’t work, don’t get paid. Or the Congressional “Leader” who wants to regulate Feds with a Law to turn off lights at night when there are already solutions in place for lights out. What planet did these clowns come from?

      When was the last time a full budget was in place and on time? Anybody else would have been fired by now for poor performance. These guys just vote themselves a raise and furlough everybody else.
      This is one of the worst example of Congressional employees ever! A bunch of willy-nilly bullies with no common sense. Stupid!

    • Fedman says:

      You should also count Obama too.

    • mandinka says:

      Just as long as Barak is the 1st to go

      • A Guest says:

        1st: You get lost & don’t come back: Today, Effective 12:00am

        2nd: GOP Tea Party Voted Out of Office: Tuesday, Nov 5, 2014.

        3rd: New President Elected to Office: Tuesday, Nov 8, 2016

    • Motherabbess says:

      Congress and the entire Tea Party lunatics need to go and never come back! They have literally ruined our government. I say clean the entire slate and put in people who really care about this country and about the working & middle class! Screw the 1% and the spoiled brats of Congress who call themselves public servants. They only care about their own bottom line and their own necks. They don’t care about providing a SERVICE. They give themselves outrageous raises and expect the rest of us to get by on next to nothing. They don’t even pay into Social Security but they want to take it from the rest of us. They have cushy jobs, working only a few days a week, while the rest of us slave for 40 hours every week – plus many people put in O/T or are forced to find additional work just to pay the bills. Then they want to furlough us — maybe we should all send our mortgage statements and utility bills to Boehner and the rest of those money-grubbing morons! Let them pay our debts which they are forcing us to incur!

      • Same old history says:

        History repeating itself? The members of Original BostonTea Party were about a bunch of white men pretending to be something they weren’t just so they could get their way. Has anything really changed since that long ago?

    • Saggitt says:

      I know a lot of good kids who would never act like Congress. I bet if you poled the kids, they’d come up with some pretty good ideas how to move this country forward. Kids are about results, while the Good Ole Boys are about their egos.

  15. Vets deserve better says:

    How will Veterans be able to pay for health care in the private hospitals when VA closes for several months? How can we do that to our Vets? Nobody can work without pay check so even if lights are on-Vets will suffer and that is horrible when halls are empty.

    • Fella says:

      Why will the VA be closed for several months?

      • Motherabbess says:

        No, I heard the VA won’t be affected at all.

      • shadowfire87 says:

        Veterans will not be fully affected but there will be some impact. If you are a fresh veteran, just out of the service and you need to initiate a claim for benefits then that process
        will be put on hold until after the furlough is over. If you are already in the system then your checks will still process in the short term. The only thing I do not know about is what would happen if this stretches out past 1 month.

    • Enchanted says:

      I believe everyone will suffer. The last furlough made people dip into their savings or they just didn’t pay bills. This furlough will be more of the same. How much back up funds do people have? Eventually the straw will break the camel’s back.

      • help our Vets pay bills says:

        That is my point-no paycheck in 95 and 96 for these shutdowns and they quit-Vets will suffer if nobody is there to care for them-nobody has savings this time since pay frozen and little people got no bonus or raises-they are scraping by so even a 4-5 week wait as in last shutdowns-people cant wait even that long and all will leave except chiefs who don’t roll up sleeves to do dirty work needed to care for our vets-this is horrible since out vets will suffer greatly-not fair-they deserve help each and every minute of each and every day. I do not blame those who need a paycheck-just saying that our vets should not suffer a minute and congress needs to pay all vets bills at all private hospitals so our vets do not suffer during the skeleton crew of works at VA that come work without pay at VA

        • theinnerring says:

          who quit what? in 95 we were paid relatively quickly once the shutdown was ended. there was no mass exodus from the VA and there won’t be now given the job market. lots and lots of applicants available to fill any vacant spots. VA hospitals do not work with a skeleton crew during a shutdown, most employees are essential. you seem to know little about this, actually.

        • Fella says:

          That isn’t true at all. I don’t think a few days of going to work “without pay” is going to make a difference for doctors and nurses. Assuming the shutdown is only a few days, my guess is that they won’t even go one pay period without a full check. The people that work will still get paid. It’s not like they randomly have to go work for free. The VA doesn’t maintain “skeleton crews”. Non essential things like some of their HR and payroll and things like that will be shells, but doctors, technicians and nurses, if not fully staffed, will be very close to it.

          • theinnerring says:

            in 95 very few people were non-essential. almost anyone patients had to interact with were fully staffed. people who did not work were medical librarians, some timekeepers, some HR, business office, etc. the number who did not work was relatively small.

            having said all that, someone mentioned and i think it’s correct, VHA has a budget for another year.

          • Fella says:

            Yea, someone told me their funding is different and they get theirs the year before? I don’t actually know this, but I have heard.

    • The Master says:

      VHA won’t shutdown.

      • pickles says:

        VHA won’t shut down, but there will be furloughed employees on the benefits side. Veterans waiting for disability will feel the effects.

        • mandinka says:

          Its high time that disability claims be contracted out so that Vets get what they are entitled to

    • theinnerring says:

      most of VHA = essential employees. we were open for business in 95