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What to Know Before Quitting a Government Job -

The federal government is a great place to work. Generous paid leave, benefits, and stability all make a government job appealing. However – whether you are retiring, transferring to another agency, or moving to the private sector – eventually, you will have to leave your job in the government.

You have been working for years, focused on advancing your career within the government ranks. But now you are preparing to part ways. This is a stressful and exciting time. You probably have a lot of questions. How much notice should I give? Who do I notify? What will happen to my vacation time and sick leave? What about my Thrift Savings Plan? What if I want to return to the government someday?

Read on below for answer to these questions and many others.

How Much Notice Should I Give Before Quitting?

2-weeks is the minimum notice you should give before quitting a job in the federal government. If your work can be easily reassigned then 2-weeks is probably sufficient. If you have a critical role or if your job is particularly difficult to replace, you should give a longer notice. Anywhere from 1 to 3 month notice may be appropriate.

Although it is customary and professional, there is no rule or regulation that requires you to give advanced notice of resignation or retirement. Technically, you can quit the same day without any prior notice. Although there are no universal requirements, your agency may impose its own advanced notice requirements.

It is often difficult for both the management and soon-to-be ex-coworkers when you quit. Especially if you have a new job lined up, you may not be able to give adequate notice of your departure. Any help you can offer your employer during the transition period will help to prevent burning bridges.

In the end, it depends on how long it will take your employer to reassign your work to someone else.

Even if you are anxious to leave your current job, it is best to not burn bridges. You never know when you may want to come back.

Who to Notify of Resignation?

Again, this depends on your agency. There is no official list of individuals you must notify when quitting your job. There are 3 main groups you should always notify right away, in this order:

  1. Coworkers
  2. Direct Supervisor
  3. Human Resources / Administration

It is best that your coworkers and supervisor hear the news directly from you.
After you tell your coworkers, immediately tell you supervisor so no one else can tell your supervisor before you do.
You should deliver the news to your coworkers and supervisor face-to-face. Not through email.
It is fine to tell HR via email.

How to Give Official Notice of Resignation

You want notify your supervisor of your resignation in person, if possible. Have your written resignation ready to give to your supervisor or email your letter of resignation to your supervisor immediately after notifying them of your resignation in person.

How to Write a Letter of Resignation?

You want to be clear, concise, and respectful in your letter of resignation. You do not have to give a reason for your departure. The letter of resignation will be placed in a permanent file. If you ever apply for another job in the federal government, the new hiring agency can see your previous letter of resignation. You should not express frustration or anger in your letter of resignation.

There are a few points you definitely do want to include in your letter:

  1. Current position from which you are resigning,
  2. Last day of employment,
  3. Express your willingness to help during the transition, and
  4. Say ‘Thank-You’

Here is a great example of a simple and respectful Letter of Resignation:

Dear [Your supervisor’s name],
Please accept my resignation as [your position] from [agency name].
My last day will be on [date]. I will do everything possible to assist during this transition period.
Thank you for the opportunity to work at [agency name].

Thank you,
[your name]

The letter is clear and to the point – exactly what you are looking for in a letter of resignation. There is no need to mention why you are leaving. Feel free to modify this example as needed.

What Happens to my Security Clearance?

Many government jobs, especially in the DoD, require you to obtain a security clearance. If you get a job at a facility that requires a clearance, they will pay for the investigation and all associated costs. It often costs private companies and individuals thousands of dollars to get a security clearance, which are sometimes needed for contractor positions that work closely with the government.

So, if you are leaving your government job to become a contractor, you likely want to keep your security clearance. Fortunately, you can keep your security clearance after leaving the federal government. A regular Secret Clearance is good for 10 years and a Top Secret Clearance is good for 5 years. Most agencies will accept another agency’s security clearance as the basis for issuing their own clearance, as long as the original clearance had not yet expired.

If you leave the federal government entirely and do not become a contractor, your clearance may expire more quickly. The Department of State will only re-validate a security clearance if you have been out of the Federal Government for less than 2 years. The clearance policy of other federal departments and agencies may differ.

What Happens to My Annual Leave?

The federal government has a generous paid leave policy. Employees accrue both vacation and sick leave. In addition to paid holidays, many federal employees cannot use all of their paid leave. So what happens to your paid leave when you leave the federal government?

First, we will talk about Annual leave, sometimes called vacation leave. Annual leave is considered compensation equivalent to cash. As a result, when you leave the federal government you can cash-out your annual leave. If you have 16 hours of annual leave when you quit, you will receive two days of pay added to your final paycheck. This is treated the same whether you quit or retire.

Next, we will talk about Sick Leave. Sick leave is treated differently than annual leave. You cannot take Sick Leave with you in the form of money when you part with the federal government. Rather, your sick leave stays in your personnel file so that if you ever return to the federal government you will get your sick leave back. This is true even if you return to a completely separate federal department or agency. (State agencies are different)

The rules are slightly different when you retire. When you retire, you can credit your sick leave time directly towards your retirement date. The amount of sick leave you have accrued is added directly to the length of your credible service for calculating retirement benefits.

There is a third type of leave you must also talk about: Compensation Time, often abbreviated as Comp Time. Comp time is accrued by traveling on official duty during off-duty times, for working overtime, or as a form of non-monetary bonus. Because Comp Time is considered non-monetary compensation like sick leave, you cannot receive a lump-sum payment for your Comp Time or credit the time towards your retirement. If you have accrued Compensation Leave when you leave the federal government the time is simply gone. Use it or lose it!

What Happens to My Thrift Savings Plan?

Thrift Savings Plan is the retirement savings plan used by the federal government – similar to many 401k plans. The Thrift Savings has one of the lowest administration fees of any retirement plan available and the plan is only available to federal employees.

When you leave the federal government, you can keep you can leave your money in your Thrift Savings Plan and enjoying the very low administration fees. However, after leaving the government you will not be able to contribute more money into your account or move money between funds in your account.

You can also roll your Thrift Savings Plan into a different private retirement plan. All of the standard early withdraw options are still available to you after you leave the federal government.

What is the Federal Government Vesting Period?

In order to be considered ‘vested’, you must work for the Federal Government for at least 3 years. If you leave before you have vested, you will forfeit part of the government’s contribution to your retirement. You get to keep the government’s matching of your contributions. But you forfeit the automatic 1% contribution that the government makes on your behalf. If you have worked for at least 3 years, you will get to keep the entire amount.

Wrap Up

Leaving the federal government is similar to leaving any other professional job. Government jobs can be difficult, bureaucratic, and underpaid. But there are a lot of benefits of government work, including generous benefits and stability. It is important to know how it works when you quit a federal job. If there is anything we did not cover in this article please contact us to let us know.

Good luck in your future endeavors!

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Topics: DepartmentsJobs
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