Maximizing Your Leave Time


Despite its title, the Office of Personnel Management’s new “Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care” is also a helpful resource for childless feds. But this handbook doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about maximizing leave time and avoiding sacrificing leave due you. Some highlights on this topic:

If you’ve been preapproved to take leave on a day that ends up being a snow day, you will be charged for that leave anyway. So, if you’re planning to take leave on a day that may overlap with a snow day, consider delaying your leave request.

Sick leave may be used to cover caretaking for more types of family than Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

You’re entitled to take up to 24 hours of leave without pay (LWOP) per year to address certain types of family matters.

You won’t accrue any annual leave or sick leave during any pay period in which your cumulative number of LWOP hours for a leave year totals 80 hours or a multiple of 80 hours.

You don’t have to exhaust your annual and sick leave before taking FMLA. You may take FMLA as LWOP or as annual leave or sick leave to keep getting paid during your absence.

When you retire, your unused sick leave may — under some circumstances — increase your retirement annuity. So research how your retirement system credits unused sick leave.

You may use FMLA leave intermittently and/or with annual leave and sick leave. When choosing between using LWOP or paid leave, balance the financial sacrifices of using LWOP against the costs of using paid leave. For example, if you take two weeks of FLMA as LWOP, you will lose two weeks of pay and won’t accrue any leave during your absence.

But if you take two weeks of FLMA as sick leave, you’ll get paid and accrue leave during your absence; however, you’ll sacrifice two weeks of accrued sick leave — which you may need to cover future absences or increase your retirement annuity.

Your boss may allow you to use FMLA or sick or annual leave intermittently with telecommuting to extend the total time of your absence and conserve paid leave for future needs.

If you exhaust your annual leave or sick leave, you may request advanced leave. If you exhaust your FLMA leave or annual 24-hour LWOP option, you may request additional LWOP. But extended LWOP may impact your benefits.

To receive holiday pay, you must be in pay status on the day before or the day after the holiday. So time LWOP accordingly.

If you’re on a flexible work schedule, you should earn credit hours whenever you work more than 80 hours during a pay period. But you can only carry over a maximum of 24 credit hours into the next pay period, and compensatory time (including comp time earned during travel) expires on the 26th pay period after you earned it. Use credit and comp hours before you lose them.

Don’t forgo claiming earned credit or comp hours out of misplaced heroism; you should be about as willing to donate those hours as you would be to donate your salary to your agency.

You usually can’t be denied sick or FMLA leave. But you may have to time your use of annual leave or credit or comp hours to accommodate busy work periods.

If your accrual rate of annual leave exceeds four hours per pay period, you’ll accrue (and therefore be able to replace) used annual leave much faster than used sick leave, which accrues at four hours per pay period no matter how much seniority you have.

Lying about work/leave
hours is among the easiest ways to get into serious trouble. And whenever other staffers record your leave for you, check their accuracy.


About Author

Lily Whiteman is a federal communications expert and author of “How to Land a Top-paying Federal Job,” and a trainer of career advancement skills and communication skills. Her website is Ask your career questions by email to or by Twitter to @Lilymwhiteman.

Leave A Reply