Federal Employee Pay Freeze and Extra Time Off for Christmas

Will federal employees get extra time off (with pay) during the holiday season? With a multi-year pay freeze in effect, some agencies may use their authority to grant more time off.

In 2011, December 25th (also known as Christmas day) falls on a Sunday.

For many of our readers, most of whom are federal employees, this leads to the question: “Will we get a day off with pay since Christmas falls on a weekend?”

Here is the answer from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM): “For most Federal employees, Monday, December 26, will be treated as a holiday for pay and leave purposes.”

While there is no government-wide order from the White House, there is also a possibility that federal employees will be given an extra day or half of one day off (with pay) in addition to the regular holiday. That happens on occasion under both Democrats and Republicans. Presidents can (and often have) granted extra time off by issuing an executive order.

President Obama provided a half-day off on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2009. President George W. Bush provided a half-day holiday on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2002, as well as several full days off the day before or after Christmas—Tuesday, December 24, 2001, Thursday, December 26, 2003, Tuesday, December 24, 2007, and Thursday, December 26, 2008.

There is no official government-wide policy I know of to give federal workers extra time off during the Christmas-New Year’s holidays. But, according to one report, federal agencies are being granted wide leeway to offer their workers a few extra days off. That can happen in any year. But, if an excuse is needed, some agency heads are reportedly planning to give employees one or more extra paid days off this year because of the federal pay freeze.

If more paid holiday time is given to employees in your agency, don’t look for a widespread press release announcing the policy. Most agencies are leery of appearing to provide federal employees with more benefits while the nation’s unemployment rate continues to be very high and there was been widespread criticism of federal pay rates.

In a statement to U.S. News and World Report, OPM stated:

“Although agencies do have the discretion to excuse employees from their duties without loss of pay or charge to leave, OPM has always advised that the granting of excused absence should be limited to those situations in which the employees’ absence, in the agency’s determination, is not specifically prohibited by law and satisfies one or more of the following criteria: (1) the absence is directly related to the agency’s mission; (2) the absence is officially sponsored or sanctioned by the head of agency; (3) the absence will clearly enhance the professional development or skills of the employee in his or her current position; or (4) the absence is brief and is determined to be in the interest of the agency.”

Being a federal employee has a number of advantages, including a number of paid holidays and a relatively generous leave program. And, it appears, at least some readers may be receiving extra time off this year around the Christmas-New Year’s holiday season.

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