Sick Leave, Retirement Annuities, and CSRS Employees

CSRS employees get credit for unused sick leave when they retire which can create confusion for employees under FERS.

A recent article on about unused sick leave generated a number of opinions from readers. Here is the situation: Those employees under the FERS retirement system do not get some credit for unused sick leave in calculating their retirement annuity. Those who are under the CSRS do get credit for unused sick leave in computing their retirement annuity.

Here is how this benefit is implemented according to the Office of Personnel Management. If you are covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and, if you retire on an immediate annuity or if you die leaving a widow, widower, or former spouse entitled to a survivor annuity, you get an extra benefit that your colleagues under FERS do not get.

Here is how it works. Your federal service time will be increased by the days of unused sick leave to your credit under a formal leave system.

In other words, you get credit for more time as a federal employee because you did not use the sick leave that you have accumulated.

These days of unused sick leave that are added in to your total service time are used in computing your number of years and months of service for annuity computation purposes.

But a word to the wise: This sick leave cannot be used in computing your “high-3” average salary or for meeting the minimum length of service for retirement eligibility. In other words, if you are not eligible to retire, you can’t throw in your sick leave to get you there. You will have to continue working until you are eligible. The benefit kicks in after you have met the minimum time of service required to leave government service with an annuity.

For most people, the system is pretty straight-forward. The leave system in most agencies charges you for 8 hours of sick leave for each day you are sick and take off work. So, when this benefit kicks in, you get one day of credit for each eight hours of unused sick leave.

The number of days you get under this system are changed to months and years (assuming you haven’t used your sick leave). OPM assumes there are 2087 hours in a work year so each 2087 hours of sick leave gives you an additional one year of credit for retirement purposes.

To compute the additional credit for sick leave at retirement, add the months and days of sick leave to the months and days of your actual service.

So, if you are a FERS employee, are you entitled to take off work even though you are not sick because you have accumulated sick leave time?

No you are not. The sick leave you accumulate is a benefit to be used when you are sick and ensures you continue to receive money from your job when you are ill.

Does this mean that some people use the differences between the CSRS and FERS system as an excuse to use their sick leave when they want to go to the beach or mountains over a long weekend? From comments we have received from readers on this issue, there is no question some readers do this and have no qualms about it.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47