Will Federal Employees and Retirees Get Paid in a Shutdown?

The threat of yet another partial government shutdown is weighing on federal employees at the end of this week. What impact does this have on pay and benefits?

It seems to have become a recurring theme: Republicans and Democrats bicker over political issues, leading to a threat of a partial government shutdown; Congress then eventually passes a stopgap spending bill, and when that runs out, the process repeats all over again.

After avoiding the last shutdown, the current spending measure that was put in place runs out at the end of this week.

So if there ends up being a partial shutdown, what does this mean for federal employees and retirees?

Salary and Annuity Payments

Will federal employees get paid? Recent past precedent suggests that they would get paid, but the official answer is that for some employees, it depends.

Exempt Employees

Some federal employees are considered “excepted” (a.k.a. exempt) from a shutdown and therefore will still work and get paid in a shutdown, although the pay may come after the shutdown is resolved. OPM describes it this way:

The term “excepted” is used to refer to employees who are funded through annual appropriations who are nonetheless excepted from the furlough because they are performing work that, by law, may continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations. Excepted employees include employees who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work.

Non-Exempt Employees

Employees who are neither “excepted” or “exempt” will be furloughed during a shutdown.

But will they still get paid? It is up to Congress to make this decision, but given that Congress did ultimately pay furloughed employees during the last shutdown, that increases the likelihood of these employees getting paid.

When the last shutdown threatened, some Congressmen took a preemptive measure to ensure federal employees would get paid if furloughed by introducing a bill that would guarantee their pay. Such a bill would have to be enacted into law of course, but it ultimately was a moot point since a shutdown was avoided.

Be prepared for not getting a paycheck for a while though. The delays in pay that came about as a result of the last shutdown served as a reminder for some federal employees to have an emergency savings plan to deal with not being paid for a short period of time. Even if most or all federal workers get paid after a shutdown, there is likely to be a dry spell from delayed paychecks.

Federal Retirees

Will federal retirees still receive their annuity payments if the government shuts down? Yes, according to the Office of Personnel Management:

Federal retirees under the CSRS and FERS retirement systems will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month.

Health Insurance

Federal employees and retirees will continue to receive their health benefits during a shutdown.

“The employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status,” according to OPM.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.