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Paid Leave -

Paid leave is quite generous within the federal government. Despite generally lower wages and sometimes less opportunity for growth than in private companies, the total compensation offered by the federal government, when you take into account benefits like paid leave, is competitive.

Annual Leave

The amount of annual leave, sometimes called personal leave or vacation time, that is accrued is based on your time-in-service within the federal government. Annual leave is accrued in increments of 4 to 8 hours per pay period. A pay period is every two weeks and typically 80 hours. Part-time employees accrue leave at a proportional rates based on their time-in-service.

Employees new to the government earn 4 hours of annual leave per 80 hours worked. If you are a full-time employee, that equates to 13 days of paid personal leave per year. After 3 years of federal service, employees earn 6 hours per pay period (plus 10 hours in the last pay period of the year). There are 26 pay periods in most years, so this adds up to 20 days off per year or 20.75 days off in years with 27 pay periods (like 2023).  After 15 years of full time federal service, employees earn 8 hours of paid personal leave per pay period which is equal to 26-27 days off per year. All SES, Senior Level, and Scientific or Professional positions earn 8 hours of leave per pay period, regardless of time-in-service.

When an employee leaves a government job – either for retirement or to peruse another non-federal job – the employee will receive monetary compensation for unused annual leave. Employees may only accrue so much annual leave. If stationed in the U.S. you can accrue no more than 30 days of annual leave; if you are stationed outside of the U.S. you may accrue no more than 45 days of annual leave; and if you are a member of the Senior Executive Service you may accrue up to 90 days of annual leave before the time is forfeited.

If you are veteran, your time in the military counts towards your “time-in-service” for purposes of calculating annual leave accrual. For example, if you served 10 years in the military then switch to a civilian GS position, you will start earning 6 hours of annual leave per pay period in your first year. Then it will only take 5 more years before you start accruing 8 hours per pay period.

Sick Leave

Sick leave is always earned at a rate of 4 hours per pay period. Sick leave can only be used for an approved reason such as illness or illness of a dependent or family member. Sick leave can be credited towards retirement time but employees will not be credited for unused sick leave when leaving the government for a non-federal job. There is no maximum amount of sick leave that an employee may accrue.

If you accrue a large amount of sick leave, there are some limitations that apply. There is no limit on the amount of sick leave you can take in a single year for your own medical needs. However, you can only take up to 13 days (104 hours) of sick leave for general family care or bereavement each leave year. Additionally, you can only take up to 12 weeks (480 hours) of sick leave to care for a dependent each year.

Years In ServiceAnnual LeaveSick Leave
0 – 3 years4 Hours4 Hours
3 – 15 Years6 Hours4 Hours
15+ Years8 Hours4 Hours

Paid Parental Leave (Maternity and Paternity leave)

As of October 1, 2020, qualified federal employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid Parental Leave. This is a change to the old policy which allowed federal employees to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave but required employees to use their sick leave. The new policy, which was updated to align with FMLA (Federal Employee Paid Leave) law, no longer required new parents to use their sick time for parental leave.

To qualify for the 12 weeks of parental leave you must have been an employee for at least 12 months. Parental leave may be used for the birth of a child or after adoption.

Paid Holidays

In addition to paid annual and sick leave federal employees receive paid leave for the 11 federally recognized holidays. Even if these holidays fall on a weekend employees will still receive the Friday before or the Monday after off.
View when each Federal Holiday occurs.

Employees who observe religious holidays that are not federally observed may work a temporarily modified schedule in order to have a particular day or part of the day off of work. The time missed must be made up and the modified schedule must be approved by a supervisor

In addition to leave with pay, under certain conditions employees may receive leave without pay (LWOP). Acceptable reasons for leave without pay are military deployment in the U.S. Armed forces or maternity or paternity leave. While under LWOP status individuals are still considered employees but do not receive pay and their time on LWOP does not count towards their time-in-service. Time-in-service is used to determine leave benefits, retirement benefits, vesting of retirement contributions and several other employee benefits.

Credit Hours and Compensatory Time Off

Federal employees can earn “credit hours” and “comp hours” in a number of ways. Mainly, credit hours and comp hours are earned for working overtime in excess of your required 80 hours per pay period.

Whether you earn credit or comp hours for overtime depends on a number of factors, such as if your are hourly or salary and if you are exempt or non-exempt from earning overtime. Ultimately if depends upon your position and your agency.

There are also differences regarding how credit and comp hours may be used, how long they can be retained, how many hours can be accrued, etc. These rules also vary by agency.

Leave Tracking Spreadsheet

We created a leave tracking spreadsheet to make it easier for federal employees to monitor their leave over time.

Access the spreadsheet here: Leave Tracking Spreadsheet

  1. Click the link above
  2. Click “Make a Copy”
  3. The spreadsheet will only work in Google Sheets due to custom code embedded in the spreadsheet which is used to automate calculations. (Google account is required)

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** This Document Provided By - The Civil Employee's Resource **