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Pandemic Information Pay & Leave

 

Overview

During a pandemic health crisis, employees may be forced to evacuate from their worksite and perform work from home, while others may need to take sick leave to recuperate from illness or assist with caring for a sick family member. It is important that all Federal employees understand the various pay and leave flexibilities that may be utilized during a pandemic health crisis contained within this section.

Pay Flexibilities

Annual Premium Pay Cap

In certain emergency or mission critical situations, an agency may apply an annual premium pay cap instead of a biweekly premium pay cap, subject to the conditions provided in law and regulation. (See 5 U.S.C. 5547(b) and 5 CFR 550.106-550.107.) This has a financial benefit for employees whose premium pay earnings would cause them to exceed the biweekly limit during some pay periods. When the agency applies an annual premium pay cap, the affected employee's basic pay and premium pay in any calendar year is limited to the greater of (1) the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable locality rate or special rate of pay), or (2) the annual rate payable for level V of the Executive Schedule.

Note:

Overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is not subject to the biweekly or annual premium pay cap.

During a Pandemic Health Crisis

  1. Generally, if you are required to work overtime, you may receive:
    1. Overtime pay - For information on computing overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), visit the website
    2. Compensatory time off
  2. If you are required to work on a holiday during your regularly scheduled tour of duty, you are entitled to receive Holiday pay.
  3. If you perform regularly scheduled work on Sundays, you are entitled to receive Sunday premium pay.
  4. If you are regularly scheduled to work the night shift, you are entitled to receive Night pay. (Prevailing rate (wage) employees are covered by a separate night shift differential authority. See Subchapter S-8., Pay Administration.
  5. If you are required to work /telework from home temporarily because of a pandemic health crisis, your locality rate or special rate may continue to be determined based on the location of your regular official worksite.
  6. If you are ordered to evacuate from your worksite because of a pandemic health crisis, you may be instructed to perform work at home and receive Evacuation Pay.

Leave Flexibilities

The Federal Government offers numerous leave flexibilities to assist employees who are affected by a pandemic influenza:

  • Sick Leave for Personal Medical Reasons - An employee may use any or all accrued sick leave when he or she is unable to perform his or her duties due to physical or mental illness; is receiving medical examination or treatment; or when he or she would, as determined by the health authorities or a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others because of his or her exposure to a communicable disease.
  • Sick Leave for General Family Care and Bereavement - An employee may use a total of up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave each leave year to provide care for a family member who is ill or receiving medical examination or treatment or to make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or attend the funeral of a family member. The amount of sick leave permitted for family care and bereavement purposes is pro-rated for part-time employees and employees with uncommon tours of duty in proportion to the average number of hours of work in the employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek.
  • Sick Leave To Care for a Family Member with a Serious Health Condition - An employee may use a total of up to 12 workweeks of sick leave each leave year to care for a family member with a serious health condition. If an employee has already used 13 days of sick leave for general family care and bereavement purposes (discussed above), the 13 days must be subtracted from the 12 weeks.
  • Annual Leave - An employee may use any or all accrued annual leave for personal needs, such as rest and relaxation, vacations, medical needs, personal business or emergencies, or to provide care for a healthy or sick family member, including providing child care when a child care center is closed due to a pandemic. An employee has a right to take annual leave, subject to the right of the supervisor to schedule the time at which annual leave may be taken.
  • Advance Annual and/or Sick Leave - If an employee has exhausted his or her accrued annual or sick leave, he or she may request advance annual and/or sick leave. The amount of annual leave that may be advanced may not exceed the amount the employee will accrue during the remainder of the leave year. A maximum of 30 days of sick leave may be advanced for an employee's serious disability or illness.
  • Leave Without Pay (LWOP) - If an employee has exhausted his or her available annual or sick leave or other forms of paid time off, he or she may request leave without pay (LWOP). LWOP is a temporary nonpay status and absence from duty that, in most cases, is granted at the employee's request.
  • Family and Medical Leave - An employee may invoke his or her entitlement to unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). Under the FMLA, an employee may take up to 12 weeks of leave without pay for a serious health condition that prevents an employee from performing his or her duties or to care for a spouse, son or daughter, or parent with a serious health condition. An employee may substitute his or her accrued annual and/or sick leave for unpaid leave in accordance with current laws and regulations governing the use of annual and sick leave.
  • Excused Absence (Administrative Leave) - OPM will consult with Federal agencies and Administration officials to develop a consistent, Governmentwide approach to the use of excused absence in appropriate circumstances.

Donated Leave

If an employee has a personal or family medical emergency or is adversely affected by a major disaster or emergency, he or she may qualify for donated annual leave from the Federal voluntary leave transfer program, voluntary leave bank program, and/or emergency leave transfer program.

  • Leave Transfer Program - The voluntary leave transfer program allows Federal employees to donate annual leave to assist another Federal employee who has a personal or family medical emergency and who has exhausted his or her own available paid leave. All agencies must establish a voluntary leave transfer program.
  • Leave Bank Program - The voluntary leave bank program allows Federal employees who are members of the agency's voluntary leave bank to receive donated annual leave from the leave bank if the employee experiences a personal or family medical emergency and has exhausted his or her own available paid leave. An agency is not required to establish a voluntary leave bank program.
  • Emergency Leave Transfer Program - An emergency leave transfer program, established by OPM when directed by the President, allows an employee in any Executive agency to donate annual leave for transfer to Federal employees who are adversely affected by a major disaster or emergency, such as a flood, earthquake, tornado, bombing, or a pandemic influenza. An employee is not required to exhaust his or her available paid leave before receiving donated annual leave.

Other Paid Time Off

An employee may use earned compensatory time off, compensatory time off for travel, and/or credit hours if he or she is unable to report for work as a result of a pandemic influenza.

  • Compensatory Time Off - Compensatory time off is earned time off with pay in lieu of overtime pay for overtime work.
  • Compensatory Time Off for Travel - Compensatory time off for travel is earned time off with pay for time spent in a travel status away from the employee's official duty station when such time is not otherwise compensable.
  • Credit Hours - Credit hours are hours an employee elects to work, with supervisory approval, in excess of the employee's basic work requirement under a flexible work schedule.

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Leave Flexibilities During a Pandemic Health Crisis

If you are sick during a pandemic health crisis, you may request:

If you do not have annual or sick leave or other earned paid time off, you may apply for:

If one or more of your family members is affected by a pandemic health crisis, you may request:

If you do not have annual or sick leave or other earned paid time off, you may apply for:

If your spouse, son or daughter, or parent is affected by a serious health condition, you may request unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).


If you are told to stay home because you have been exposed to a contagious disease, you may request:

If you do not have annual or sick leave or other earned paid time off, you may apply for:

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If your child's day care center or school is closed, and your child is not sick, you may request:

If you do not have annual or sick leave or other earned paid time off, you may apply for:

If one of your family members dies, you may request:


If you are healthy, but are afraid to go to work because of a pandemic health crisis, you may request:

Note:

Because the Federal Government must continue to operate, if you are able to work and told to do so by your supervisor, you must comply. Employee welfare will always be a concern of your organization. If your worksite is unsafe, alternative work arrangements will be made.

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Evacuation Payments

Authority

The (Secretary/Administrator/Director) may provide evacuation payments to employees of (Agency) whose departure from a place inside or outside the United States is officially authorized or ordered from any place where there is imminent danger to the lives of the evacuated employees. The (Secretary/Administrator/Director) may provide evacuation payments to employees who are ordered to evacuate from their regular worksites and directed to perform work at home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis. The employee's home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee), including a home/location under quarantine or confinement, may be designated as a safe haven during the period of evacuation to promote the "social distancing" of employees and protect employees from being exposed to additional viruses or mutations of a pandemic virus.

An evacuated employee at a safe haven may be assigned to perform any work considered necessary or required to be performed during the period of evacuation without regard to the employee's grade or title. However, a supervisor may not assign work to an employee unless he or she knows the employee has the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the assigned work. The agency must comply with statutory requirements regarding reasonable accommodation for qualified employees with a disability.

Managers and supervisors are encouraged to communicate regularly with employees who are performing work from home during a pandemic health crisis. Regular communication with employees will ensure they understand their work assignments and management's expectations during the period of the evacuation. Failure or refusal to perform assigned work may be a basis for terminating evacuation payments, as well as disciplinary action under 5 CFR part 752 (Adverse Actions). However, an employee's inability to perform assigned work because of lack of knowledge or skills may not be a basis for terminating evacuation payments or taking disciplinary action.

An employee who is ordered to work from home during a pandemic health crisis may not care for his or her children while performing work. However, the employee may request changes in his or her work schedule to allow the employee to work during the periods he or she is not responsible for caring for the child (e.g., when the child is sleeping or when a spouse or other family member is available to care for the child). An employee may request annual leave or other paid time off, such as earned compensatory time off or earned credit hours, to care for a healthy child.

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Ordering an Evacuation

The (Secretary/Administrator/Director) may delegate to one or more of the following officials the authority to order employees to evacuate their regular worksites and perform work from their homes (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis:

[Examples of designated officials may include:

  • A designated representative at (Agency) headquarters;
  • The head of an agency component or a designated representative; and
  • The director, head, chief, or supervisor of an organization or office or a designated representative.]

The (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official(s)) may order an evacuation upon an official announcement by Federal, State, or local officials, public health authorities, and/or tribal governments, of a pandemic health crisis affecting certain geographic areas. (State, local, and tribal public health authorities generally are primarily responsible for detecting and responding to local disease outbreaks and implementing measures to minimize the consequences of an outbreak. The Federal Government supports State, local, and tribal public health officials in preparedness and response activities.) Consistent with 5 U.S.C. 5522 and 5523 and the Department of State Standardized Regulations, responsibility for ordering an evacuation in overseas locations rests with the Department of State.

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Evacuation Payments

The (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official) may provide evacuation payments to an employee who is ordered to evacuate his or her regular worksite and work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis. Evacuation payments will be paid on the employee's regular pay days, since these payments reflect the employee's regular pay.

Evacuation payments will be based on an employee's rate of pay (including any applicable allowances, differentials, or other authorized payments) to which the employee was regularly entitled immediately before the issuance of the order to evacuate, regardless of the employee's work schedule during the evacuation period. For example, an employee is considered to be regularly entitled to night pay differential (5 U.S.C. 5545(a) and 5343(f)) and Sunday premium pay (5 U.S.C. 5544(a) and 5546(a)) for applicable hours in the employee's normal basic workweek. An employee is considered to be regularly entitled to law enforcement availability pay (5 U.S.C. 5545a), administratively uncontrollable overtime pay (5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(2)), standby duty premium pay (5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1)), regular overtime pay for firefighters (5 U.S.C. 5545b), physicians' comparability allowances (5 U.S.C. 5948), supervisory differentials (5 U.S.C. 5755), and nonforeign area cost-of-living allowances and post differentials (5 U.S.C. 5941), as applicable. An employee will receive recruitment, relocation, and retention incentive payments (5 U.S.C. 5753 and 5754) and extended assignment incentive payments (5 U.S.C. 5757) consistent with the employee's signed service agreement. The agency must make all deductions from evacuation payments that are required by law, including retirement or Social Security (FICA) deductions, authorized allotments, and income tax withholdings.

An employee's evacuation payments must cover the period of time during which an applicable order to evacuate remains in effect, unless terminated earlier. However, evacuation payments may not continue for more than 180 calendar days after the effective date of an order to evacuate. (Agency) must determine the days and hours the employee would have been expected to work during the selected time period (but for the evacuation) as follows: (1) for employees with a regularly scheduled tour of duty, the agency must determine the days and hours in the employee's normal basic workweek during the selected time period; and (2) for intermittent employees, the agency must estimate the days and hours the employee would have been expected to work during the selected time period (not to exceed 80 hours in a biweekly pay period). If possible, the agency will estimate an intermittent employee's projected days and hours of work based on a 6-week average.

Additional Allowance Payments

The (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official), in his or her sole and exclusive discretion, may grant additional special allowance payments, based on a case-by-case analysis, to offset the direct added expenses incidental to performing work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis. The discretionary authority does not change reasonable accommodation obligations under the Rehabilitation Act. Examples of discretionary special allowance payments might include increased costs for a computer, printer, fax machine, scanner, and telecommunications equipment incurred by an employee ordered to work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during the evacuation period. An employee is not entitled to additional allowance payments for such increased costs unless the allowance payments are specifically approved by the agency head or designated official. However, an employee may not be required to absorb increased expenses (e.g., long-distance calls, supplies, or delivery services) incidental to performing work from home (or an alternative location) if the increased expenditures primarily benefit the Federal Government, since an agency may not augment its appropriations—i.e., require an employee to absorb additional expenses incidental to performing work from home—without specific statutory authority to do so.

In most situations, employees who are ordered to evacuate their official duty stations during a pandemic health crisis (will) (will not) receive additional allowance payments to offset the direct added expenses incident to travel outside the limits of their official duty station—e.g., travel and subsistence expenses. However, the (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official) may make exceptions in unusual circumstances. (See 5 CFR 550.405.)

In most situations, an advance salary payment will not be made to an employee who is ordered to evacuate his or her official duty station during a pandemic health crisis, since the employee will receive evacuation payments on his or her regular pay day. However, the (Secretary/ Administrator/Director or designated official) may make exceptions in unusual circumstances. (An advance salary payment may be made when an agency official has determined that payment in advance of the date on which the employee otherwise would be entitled to be paid is required to help the employee defray immediate expenses incidental to an employee's departure. An advance salary payment is equivalent to a loan and must be treated as a debt owed to the Federal Government. However, the (Secretary/Administrator/ Director or designated official) may waive recovery of a debt for an advance salary payment when he or she determines that the recovery would be against equity or good conscience or against the public interest.)

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Termination of Payments

The (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official) must terminate an employee's evacuation payments on the date of the earliest of the following events, as applicable:

  • The employee is assigned to another duty station outside the evacuation area.
  • The employee is separated from his or her position with (Agency).
  • The elapsing of 180 days since the effective date of the order to evacuate.
  • The employee resumes his or her duties at the regular worksite from which he or she was evacuated after the applicable order to evacuate is rescinded.
  • The (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official) determines that payments are no longer warranted (e.g., based on guidance provided by State, local, or tribal public health officials or Federal officials (e.g., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or Department of State) regarding the status of the pandemic health crisis).

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Review and Reconciliation of Employee Payroll Accounts

After an order to evacuate is terminated, (Agency's) payroll provider will make adjustments in an employee's pay on the basis of the rates of pay, allowances, and differentials, if any, to which the employee otherwise would have been entitled during the period of evacuation under applicable statutes. (Agency) will review each employee's account for the purpose of making adjustments in the employee's pay. This review should be conducted at the earliest possible date after evacuation payments are terminated. (Agency) will determine whether, during the period covered by evacuation payments, an employee was entitled to higher total pay under the normally applicable pay provisions than the total amount of evacuation payments received by an employee. The alternative pay computation must take into account changes in an employee's rate of basic pay that occurred during the evacuation payment period (e.g., a within-grade increase) and additional hours worked beyond the number of hours assumed in computing the evacuation payments. For the purpose of this alternative pay computation, the employee is deemed to have worked at least the number of hours assumed in computing his or her evacuation payments. If the total pay under the alternative pay computation exceeds the total amount of evacuation payments, the agency must pay the employee the additional amount. After an employee's account is reviewed, if (Agency) finds that the employee is indebted to the Government, the agency must recover the debt from the employee, unless the (Secretary/Administrator/Director or designated official) grants a waiver. (See 5 CFR 550.408.)


References

    • 5 U.S.C. 5522 – 5524
    • 5 CFR part 550, subpart D

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Evacuation Payments During a Pandemic Health Crisis

An Executive agency (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105) may provide evacuation payments to its employees who are ordered to evacuate their regular worksites and work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis. The head of an agency may delegate authority to one or more designated officials to order the evacuation of agency employees, employees assigned to certain geographic areas, or employees in certain components/divisions of the agency. In this unique situation, the agency may designate an employee's home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee), including a location under quarantine or confinement, as a safe haven during the period of evacuation. A policy to evacuate to a safe haven promotes the "social distancing" of employees and protects them from being exposed to additional viruses or mutations of a pandemic virus.

An agency may order an evacuation upon an official announcement by Federal, State, or local officials, public health authorities, and/or tribal governments, of a pandemic health crisis affecting certain geographic areas. Consistent with 5 U.S.C. 5522 and 5523 and the Department of State Standardized Regulations, responsibility for ordering an evacuation in overseas locations rests with the Department of State.


Assignment of Work to Evacuated Employees

An evacuated employee at a safe haven may be assigned to perform any work considered necessary or required to be performed during the period of evacuation without regard to the employee's grade or title. However, an agency may not assign work to an employee unless the agency knows the employee has the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the assigned work. For example, a supervisor may assign different or lower-level duties than are normally performed by the employee. In addition, if a supervisor is sick and cannot perform his or her duties during the period of evacuation, an agency may assign the higher-level work to a subordinate employee who would, under normal circumstances, be designated as "acting" when the supervisor is on leave. Additionally, the agency must provide reasonable accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act for qualified employees with disabilities.

Managers and supervisors are encouraged to communicate regularly with employees who are performing work from home during a pandemic health crisis. Regular communication with employees will ensure they understand their work assignments and management's expectations during the period of the evacuation. Failure or refusal to perform assigned work may be a basis for terminating evacuation payments, as well as disciplinary action under 5 CFR part 752 (Adverse Actions). However, an employee's inability to perform assigned work because of lack of knowledge or skills may not be a basis for terminating evacuation payments or taking disciplinary action.

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Payments for Employees Ordered To Evacuate

Evacuation Payments

Evacuation payments should be paid on the employee's regular pay days, since these payments reflect the employee's regular pay. (Since most employees use electronic fund transfer to deposit pay checks to their accounts, this should not impose an additional burden on the agency.)

An agency must compute evacuation payments based on the employee's rate of pay (including any applicable allowances, differentials, or other authorized payments) to which the employee was regularly entitled immediately before the issuance of the order to evacuate, regardless of the employee's work schedule during the evacuation period. For example, an employee is considered to be regularly entitled to night pay differential (5 U.S.C. 5545(a) and 5343(f)) and Sunday premium pay (5 U.S.C. 5544(a) and 5546(a)) for applicable hours in the employee's normal basic workweek. An employee is considered to be regularly entitled to law enforcement availability pay (5 U.S.C. 5545a), administratively uncontrollable overtime pay (5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(2)), standby duty premium pay (5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1)), regular overtime pay for firefighters (5 U.S.C. 5545b), physicians' comparability allowances (5 U.S.C. 5948), supervisory differentials (5 U.S.C. 5755), and nonforeign area cost-of-living allowances and post differentials (5 U.S.C. 5941), as applicable. An employee will receive recruitment, relocation, and retention incentive payments (5 U.S.C. 5753 and 5754) and extended assignment incentive payments (5 U.S.C. 5757) consistent with the employee's signed service agreement. The agency must make all deductions from evacuation payments that are required by law, including retirement or Social Security (FICA) deductions, authorized allotments, and income tax withholdings.

An employee's evacuation payments must cover the period of time during which an applicable order to evacuate remains in effect, unless terminated earlier. However, evacuation payments may not continue for more than 180 calendar days after the effective date of the order to evacuate. After an order to evacuate is terminated, agencies must make adjustments in an employee's pay on the basis of the rates of pay, allowances, and differentials, if any, to which the employee otherwise would have been entitled during the period of evacuation under applicable statutes. (See 5 CFR 550.408.)

Note:

The evacuation payment to an employee ordered to evacuate during a pandemic health crisis is unrelated to any benefit the enrolled employee may be entitled to receive under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB).

Additional Allowance Payments

The head of the agency or designated official, in his or her sole and exclusive discretion, may grant additional special allowance payments, based on a case-by-case analysis, to offset the direct added expenses incidental to performing work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis. (See 5 CFR 550.409.) This may include increased costs for a computer, printer, fax machine, scanner, and telecommunications equipment incurred by an employee ordered to work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during the evacuation period. An employee is not entitled to additional allowance payments for such increased costs unless the allowance payments are specifically approved by the agency head or designated official. An agency may not require an employee to absorb increased expenses (e.g., long-distance calls, supplies, or delivery services) incidental to performing work from home (or an alternative location) if the increased expenditures primarily benefit the Federal Government, unless the agency has specific statutory authority to do so.

Employees who are ordered to evacuate their official duty stations may receive additional allowance payments as necessary to offset the direct added expenses incident to travel outside the limits of their official duty station-e.g., travel and subsistence expenses. During a pandemic health crisis, payment of travel and subsistence expenses should not be necessary in most situations. (See 5 CFR 550.405.).

An advance salary payment may be made to an employee who is ordered to evacuate his or her official duty station when an agency official has determined that payment in advance of the date on which the employee otherwise would be entitled to be paid is required to help the employee defray immediate expenses incidental to an employee's departure. An advance salary payment is equivalent to a loan and must be treated as a debt owed to the Federal Government. During a pandemic health crisis, it is highly unlikely advance salary payments will be necessary, since employees will receive evacuation payments on their regular pay days. In addition, payroll providers may continue to provide employees "emergency pay" based on a "standard tour of duty" and make corrections after the fact.

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Termination of Payments

An authorized agency official must terminate an employee's advance salary payments or evacuation payments on the date of the earliest of the following events, as applicable:

  • The employee is assigned to another duty station outside the evacuation area.
  • The employee is separated from his or her position with the agency.
  • The elapsing of 180 days since the effective date of the order to evacuate.
  • The employee resumes his or her duties at the regular worksite from which he or she was evacuated after the applicable order to evacuate is rescinded.
  • The agency determines payments are no longer warranted (e.g., based on guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or local health officials regarding the status of the pandemic health crisis).

Agency Plan

Agencies must establish a plan and procedures for providing evacuation payments during a pandemic health crisis. A Sample Agency Plan is available on OPM's Website.


References

  • 5 U.S.C. 5522 - 5524 and 5 U.S.C. 5526 - 5527
  • 5 CFR part 550, subpart D

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