The Office of Personnel Management recently issued a final rule that creates a new benefit for federal employees who wish to take time off of work for religious reasons.
The final rule was published in the Federal Register and goes into effect on May 29, 2019.
Under the new rule, federal employees who request time off of work for religious reasons will have 13 pay periods before or after the scheduled date(s) of absence to make up the missed time.
On Monday, OPM issued guidance for agencies as to how the new rule should be implemented as well as reasons for why it has been put into place.
Purpose of the New Rule
OPM said that the new benefit serves to “support the President’s Management Agenda by clarifying the rules governing religious compensatory time off that in turn help agencies to become careful stewards of taxpayer dollars” and also will be an important flexibility to help in recruiting new employees.
Guidance from OPM
OPM’s guidance memo includes some important points federal employees planning to use this new benefit will want to be aware of.
Agencies must provide employees with the opportunity to earn religious compensatory time off (to offset absences) by performing overtime work. The specific timing of the overtime work is a matter of agency discretion based on the needs of the agency.
Unused religious compensatory time off cannot be forfeited, nor can it be converted to another type of paid time off.
If an employee fails to earn religious compensatory time off within 13 pay periods after the pay period in which it was used, an agency may take corrective action to eliminate or reduce the negative balance by making a corresponding reduction in the employee’s balance of annual leave, credit hours, compensatory time off in lieu of regular overtime pay, compensatory time off for travel, or time-off awards.
For federal employees with positive balances of religious compensatory time off who leave federal service or transfer to another agency, the losing agency pays the employee at the hourly rate of basic pay in effect when the religious compensatory time off was earned. (Unused religious compensatory time off hours is not paid at the overtime premium pay hourly rate.)
Conversely, if a separating employee has a negative balance of religious compensatory time off, this becomes a debt owed to the agency by the employee. OPM says that this debt “may be repaid by making a corresponding reduction in the employee’s balance of annual leave, credit hours, compensatory time off in lieu of regular overtime pay, compensatory time off for travel, or time-off awards; or resolved by charging the employee leave without pay, which would result in an indebtedness subject to the agency’s internal debt collection procedures.”
Be sure to see OPM’s memo on religious compensatory time off for additional details about the new rule, or consult your local human resources office for questions as they pertain to your individual situation.