Higher Annual Leave Carryover Now in Effect

January 6, 2021 8:32 AM
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Illustration of a person writing on a notepad labeled 'annual leave' at the top with a passport and calendar on a desk next to it

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Some federal employees will be able to carry over higher amounts of annual leave from 2020 into 2021 thanks to a new policy that is now in effect.

The Office of Personnel Management said that the higher annual leave carryover policy for leave year 2021 contained in the National Defense Authorization Act is now in effect for eligible federal employees as of January 3.

OPM issued guidance on how it will work and said it is delegating authority to agency heads to implement.

For most federal employees, the new temporary 2021 carryover limit will be 300 hours (see the table below from OPM’s guidance for details). The new annual leave carryover policy is retroactive to January 3, 2021.

Under current law, most federal employees forfeit any annual leave in excess of 240 hours at the beginning of the leave year. Certain employees have higher annual leave carryover limits: 360 hours for certain employees stationed outside the United States and 720 hours for members of the Senior Executive Service and certain other senior officials.

Leave Carryover Limits

Section 1111 in the National Defense Authorization Act provides authority to establish a higher annual leave carryover limit to be applied at the beginning of the 2021 leave year.

The table below from OPM’s guidance document shows the higher eligible leave carryover limits under the new law:

Normal Carryover Limit
(5 U.S.C. 6304(a), (b), or (f))
Section 1111 Carryover Limit 
(125% of Normal Limit)
Employees in U.S.240 hours300 hours
Employees stationed outside U.S.360 hours450 hours
SES Members and certain other Senior Officials720 hoursNot applicable

The higher annual leave carryover will apply to most civilian federal employees in the executive branch as well as employees in the United States Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Transportation Security Administration, and Veterans Health Administration personnel.

Additional details about the new policy are contained in OPM’s guidance on implementing section 1111. Federal employees with questions about their situation should contact their agency human resources officers for guidance.

Guidance on Implementing Section 1111 of the FY21 NDAA

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

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