Do You Have “Use it or Lose It” Leave? What Are You Going to Do About It?

Every year some federal employees forfeit their “use it or lose it” leave. Here are steps you have to take now to avoid this from happening.

As we get closer to the holiday season, most people are thinking of their Thanksgiving plans or where and how you will spend Christmas.

Here is one other thought: Do you have leave that you need to “use or lose?” If you do, what do you plan to do about it?

It happens every year. Some people will end up forfeiting leave they have accumulated because they forgot about it, did not take the time to schedule it, or did not know about their options or even how the leave system works.

Here is How “Use it or Lose It” It Works

Some readers tell us they have not been able to take time off from work during the year for a variety of reasons. If you fall into this category, here are a couple of items that could be important to you.

  • If you have over 240 hours of annual leave accrued, you will probably lose everything over the 240 hours unless you take action to prevent it.
  • The leave year ending date this year is December 31, 2011.
  • The last date for scheduling “use or lose” annual leave is November 19, 2011.

And, before readers start to send in notes that these dates don’t apply under your agency’s unique payroll system, you may be right so here is a word of warning: Not every agency uses the same pay system. Some agency payroll systems use a different pay period schedule. You should contact your servicing human resources office to verify the beginning and
ending dates of a leave year if you are not sure about your agency.

Another Option If You Can’t Take Off This Year

Here is another option if you cannot take the extra leave this year.

An agency may consider restoring annual leave that was forfeited. This has to be due
to an “exigency of the public business” or sickness of the employee. However, there is another catch. This can only be done if the annual leave was scheduled in writing before the start of the third biweekly pay period prior to the end of the leave year.

And, according to the Office of Personnel Management:

An employee must schedule and use restored annual leave not later than the
end of the leave year ending two years after–

  • the date of restoration of the annual leave forfeited because of administrative
  • the date fixed by the head of the agency or designee as the date of termination
    of the exigency of the public business; or
  • the date the employee is determined to be recovered from illness or injury
    and able to return to duty.

I sometimes used to enjoy working in a federal office around Christmas or Thanksgiving. The building was sometimes virtually deserted. The phone doesn’t ring. There are few emails to answer and it is a good time to get work done that requires solitude and no other distractions. But, in the event I had more than 240 hours accumulated, it is also a good time to take off—for the same reasons mentioned earlier in this paragraph. If you are a true workaholic, you will be less likely to be missed. Many of your colleagues won’t even know you are not there because they are taking leave at the same time.

Personally, I always wanted to take all the annual leave I was entitled to take. If you are in a position of having more than 240 hours, take steps now to prevent losing it. Giving it up won’t make a dent in the federal deficit and it may be better for your health to take some time off.

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