One frequent complaint of federal employees traveling on business is that they have to travel on their own time and don’t get paid for it.
That will no longer be a valid complaint for some as new interim regulations have been issued that will allow an agency to give an employee compensatory time off when traveling outside of duty hours.
The new rules are effective on Friday, January 28. So, those employees who may be leaving on Sunday for a conference or meeting that begins on Monday morning, may find the new benefit immediately useful.
“The new rules will now allow federal employees to be credited with time off for uncompensated periods of official travel that occur during non-work hours,” according to OPM Director Kay Coles James. “This is a benefit for federal employees, not often available in the private sector, and these regulations implement legislation passed by Congress late last year.”
The legal authorization for providing compensatory time off to traveling federal employees is in the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004.
There are a few key points that federal travelers will want to keep in mind. Here are some of the highlights:
• The compensatory time that is earned can be accumulated in much the same way as annual leave is accumulated. In other words, if you have earned compensatory time for several trips, you can save up the time and use the time in one chunk (but watch out for a couple of restrictions outlined below).
• The comp time does not build up forever–or even for very long. Federal travelers have to use the time within 26 pay periods (i.e. within approximately one year or 52 weeks for anyone not aware of the length of a federal pay period).
• It is easy to envision federal employees now setting their watches to record the exact time of travel. The time will be accrued in amounts of either six or 15 minutes.
• Comp time includes the “usual waiting time” at an airport for a flight. So far at least, there is no hard and fast definition of this term. Usual waiting times vary and can depend on a number of factors, including whether the travel is for a domestic or international flight, according to the Office of Personnel Management.
• The definition of “travel” for accruing comp time means travel that has been officially approved by your agency. But, for any readers who may have had their calculator out to determine how much additional money this may mean, keep in mind that the regulations do not contemplate double compensation for travel. In other words, you can’t accrue compensatory time when traveling on government business when you are also getting paid for that time.
And, for those readers with an immediate interest in the subject, check out the interim regulations that have been issued.
Comments on the new regulations are due on or before March 28, 2005. If you have comments on the interim regulations, send them to Donald J. Winstead, Deputy Associate Director for Pay and Performance Policy, Office of Personnel Management, Room 7H31, 1900 E Street, NW., Washington, DC 20415, by FAX at (202) 606-0824, or by e-mail at [email protected].