Mandatory Unpaid Leave for Federal Employees in 2011?

A bill has been introduced that would allegedly cut $5.5 billion from the federal budget by requiring two weeks of mandatory unpaid leave for federal employees. The bill is also designed to ensure “that federal workers are not sheltered from the realities of life in today’s economy.”

Unemployment is high in America and seems to be holding steady at a high rate. The stimulus programs designed to put the economy back on track have not worked as advertised and our country is spending more than $1 trillion than we receive in revenue each year. So how will we reduce this deficit?

One Congressman is offering a partial solution.

A new bill (HR 6134) has been introduced in the House that has the following purpose: “To provide for a 10 percent reduction in pay for Members of Congress, to make Federal civilian employees subject to a period of mandatory unpaid leave, (emphasis supplied) and to reduce appropriations for salaries and expenses for offices of the legislative branch, during fiscal year 2011, and for other purposes.”

Mandatory Unpaid Leave

Of most interest to readers will be the phrase that reads “mandatory unpaid leave” for federal civilian employees.

The bill is short on specifics but here is what it says in this regard:

“The President shall by regulation provide that, during fiscal year 2011,
employees in the executive branch of the Government shall be subject

(A) a total of 2 weeks of mandatory unpaid leave….”

In effect, if you are a full-time federal employee, you would take two weeks of leave without pay whether you wanted to do so or not.

The bill has been introduced by Mike Coffman (R-CO). He writes on his website that the bill will save taxpayers about $5.5 billion. He also writes:

“Currently, at least 24 states, and nearly three quarters of a million workers, are undertaking a budget-cutting maneuver that I believe we should institute at the federal level: short term employee furloughs. These states, across the nation, along with city and county government counterparts, recognize that occasional worker furloughs are necessary to cut budgets and hold down spending. It also has the benefit of ensuring that federal workers are not sheltered from the realities of life in today’s economy.”

He also writes: “The federal government continues to grow, and continues to rack up debt. I would like to make the U.S. government as cost conscious as the states. My legislation is a start.”

Before sending comments to the effect that we should not have published this information because “we don’t want to read it” or “this will not have any impact on us” or “you are just trying to increase your circulation” please be aware we are cognizant of the fact that this bill is not likely to advance out of a House committee. Depending on your personal political philosophy, you may agree with one writer who opined: “It was a nice try Mr. Coffman, but your bill makes far too much sense for the current leadership of our country. Maybe the 112th Congress will be wont to serve their constituents.”

For a variety of reasons, this bill is unlikely to get passed into law. But, as we noted in one article: “Our purpose in running the website is to provide information from our  authors and readers using the freedom of speech we enjoy in our country. We do not try to censor information or ideas that some will find inappropriate or offensive. We also do not serve as an advocate or try to usurp the role of federal unions which do not appear to need or want our help in any event.”

On the other hand, federal employees work in a political environment. Federal jobs are relatively secure and our retirement benefits are better and more secure than many other Americans now have. But federal employees should be aware of what is going on around them and how some people feel about the federal community. There is no doubt we are undergoing a debt crisis, among others, and the political will to take action to reduce the deficit is likely to occur. When that happens, active and retired federal employees are not likely to escape from the cutbacks without an impact on salaries, retirement benefits, etc.

Ignoring the political and economic realities will not enable one to make plans and to make any financial or career decisions that you may be facing if and when that occurs.

In short, don’t panic but be aware, as Congressman Coffman’s writing demonstrates, that we are not immune from economic difficulties and not everyone is in full agreement that federal employees and retirees should continue to enjoy our current job security and benefits.

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