Bill Would Pool DoD Employees’ Unused Leave for Family and Medical Use

A new bill would pool unused leave among DoD employees to to go towards family and medical leave purposes.

Recently introduced legislation would pool unused use or lose leave to automatically go towards family or medical leave use for federal employees at the Department of Defense.

The legislation (S. 1131) was introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and would automatically move any “use it or lose it” annual leave that was forfeited from civilian DoD employees into a common pool of family and medical leave to be used after the birth or adoption of a child, serious illness of an immediate family member, or a worker’s own medical condition.

Each year, civilian Department of Defense employees accrue between 104 and 208 hours of paid annual leave. If they have not used all their annual leave in a given year, they may carry over up to 240 hours to the following year. Anything above 240 hours is considered “use it or lose it” and is forfeited if the employee does not use it by the end of that year.

Merkley notes that DoD allows its employees to donate earned annual leave to specific individual colleagues for family or medical use. However, he says the current process of identifying and matching up leave donors with recipients can be inefficient, and if civilian employees do not proactively identify and donate this leave, they often forfeit earned annual leave when they either take a new job outside the Department or when they have excess use or lose leave that will not roll over to the next calendar year. Given the lack of formality to the process, he says his legislation would solve the problem of the unused leave going to waste.

“Our Department of Defense employees work hard to keep our nation safe,” said Merkley. “As a former Pentagon employee myself, I know that these jobs are tough and high-stakes. It’s good for these employees and good for our nation if workers have the paid leave they need to take care of themselves and take care of their families during important moments in their lives. Streamlining and expanding the leave bank shows how common sense and the common good can go hand-in-hand.”

Efforts have been made for years to provide paid family and medical leave to federal employees, the latest of which was introduced in Congress in March. To date, none of the legislative attempts have been successful.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.