OPM Working to Get Federal Employees Paid Quickly

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By on January 27, 2019 in Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments

Pocket watch sitting on a spread of dollar bills depicting fast payment, time is money

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) wants to get delayed pay in the hands of federal employees impacted by the lapse in appropriations as quickly as possible.

In new guidance issued by the agency, OPM is telling agencies, “In order to issue retroactive payments as quickly as possible, payroll providers may make some simplifying assumptions.”

This means that the initial payments may not reflect the full payment due in some cases. As an example, the initial retroactive pay may not include pay for irregular overtime work performed by excepted employees during the government shutdown.

Recording time and attendance may also not be done as usual. Employees may be coded just as if they were working during furlough periods to ensure that all employees are paid at their “standard rate of pay.”

OPM Guidance on Pay for the Shutdown Period

Here is the gist of the new guidance on pay that will impact a number of readers.

  • Federal employees affected by the lapse in appropriations that began on December 22, 2018, and ended on January 25, 2019, must receive retroactive pay at the employee’s “standard rate of pay” for the lapse period as soon as possible after the lapse ends.
  • An excepted employee who worked during the shutdown may be paid for that work.  The “standard rate of pay” for excepted hours of work is the pay the employee is entitled to for actual hours of work under the normally applicable pay rules.
  • For periods an employee was furloughed during the shutdown, the “standard rate of pay” is the pay the employee would have received for the furlough hours had the lapse in appropriations not occurred and the employee had actually been working.
  • An employee generally receives retroactive pay for the furlough time without being charged leave. This is because a lapse in appropriations generally prevents using paid leave.
  • All furlough hours for which an employee is paid are treated as time in a pay status for pay, leave, and benefit purposes.
  • A furloughed employee will not be paid retroactively for furlough periods if the employee had been previously (before the shutdown) scheduled to be in non-pay status.
  • A furloughed employee who was scheduled to perform overtime work or to perform work at night or during a period for which premium pay would otherwise be payable will still receive premium pay just as if the employee had been at work.

OPM Guidance on Leave & Holidays During the Shutdown

  • OPM and the Office of Management and Budget have concluded a lapse in appropriation is an “exigency of the public business” for annual leave restoration.  In effect, as long as the leave was properly scheduled in advance, agencies must restore any annual leave that was forfeited because of the lapse in appropriations—regardless of whether the affected employees were furloughed or excepted from the furlough.
  • In order for forfeited annual leave to be restored, it must have been scheduled in writing no later than November 24, 2018.
  • For an employee who did not meet the advance scheduling requirement for leave scheduled on December 24, any annual leave on that day that is forfeited at the end of the leave year may not be restored.
  • For an employee who did meet the advance scheduling requirement for taking leave on December 24, the declaration of a holiday by the President does not constitute an exigency of the public business.  This means annual leave forfeited because the December 24 holiday prevented its use cannot be restored just because the holiday prevented using the leave.
  • Generally, an employee affected by the shutdown will receive regular holiday pay for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King, Jr holidays and, if applicable, holiday premium pay for work performed by an employee during normal hours of duty on the holiday. An employee will also receive overtime pay for work in excess of the normal hours of duty on the holiday.
  • If an employee was regularly scheduled to work on these holidays and was furloughed, the employee is now entitled to holiday premium pay.
  • Retirement deductions under the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System will be deducted from the employee’s retroactive basic pay for the shutdown period.

Pay and Benefits for Employees Affected by the Lapse in Appropriations

© 2019 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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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

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