Introducing the FERS Sick Leave Equity Act

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By on February 12, 2009 in Pay & Benefits, Retirement with 0 Comments

One of the most popular articles last year on the FedSmith site was entitled: House Passes Legislation To Increase Federal Annuity Payments for Some.

While the House passed the legislation last year, it did not become a law. If it had obtained Senate approval, it would have been popular with federal employees who are under the FERS system.

Federal statistics show that federal employees under the FERS system nearing retirement get “sick” much more often than those under the CSRS system. In fact, a recent survey of FERS and CSRS employees, 85% of CSRS employees said they conserved as much sick leave as possible. On the other hand, 75% of FERS employees said they would use as much sick leave as possible during their last years.

Here is what the bill would have done:

  1. A federal employee who retires within 3 years after the date of enactment, 3/4 of the days of unused sick leave to his credit under a formal leave system will be used in computing an annuity payment.
  2. A federal employee who retires after 3 years from the date of enactment the days of unused sick leave to his credit under a formal leave system will be used in computing an annuity payment.

For those who have been asking if or when the bill would be introduced again, we now know the answer. It was introduced in the House again this week.

The bill is H.R. 958. It was introduced by James Moran (D-VA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) and has seven co-sponsors (including Congressman Wolf). The stated purpose of the bill is to to “make unused sick leave creditable, for purposes of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System, in the same manner as provided for under the Civil Service Retirement System.”

Moran said in a press release that the “FERS ‘use-it or lose-it’ system for sick leave hampers productivity and increases training costs,” said Moran. “We need to be incentivizing the accrual of sick leave, not encouraging employees to call in sick in the weeks leading up to retirement.” He also says that the use of sick leave by those under the FERS system is costing $68 million a year as federal employees try to use up their sick leave before they retire by calling in sick and not going to work.

The bill is, not surprisingly, supported by federal employee interest groups such as the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE). NARFE President Margaret L. Baptiste said in a press release that when Congress created FERS in 1986, allowing workers to apply their unused sick leave toward retirement was traded off for other FERS benefits not available under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).  “However, with the benefit of 23 years of hindsight, we recognize that the inequity in the treatment of accrued sick leave between FERS and CSRS has hurt productivity and increased agency costs.”

© 2020 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.


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