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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

  • See the annual leave fact sheet at - http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/ANNUAL.asp
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  • Yes. Each agency has discretionary authority to determine when it is appropriate to grant a reasonable amount of excused absence to employees who are unavoidably delayed in arriving for work. Factors such as distance, availability of transportation, and the success of other employees in similar situations should be considered in determining the amount of excused absence to grant. Employees are responsible for notifying their supervisors of their situation. 

    It is up to each supervisor to determine what is a reasonable amount of time to allow for excused absences for late arrival to ensure that the employee's work requirements are fulfilled and that the agency's operations are conducted efficiently and effectively. 

    Employees designated as "emergency employees" are expected to report for work on time.  However, agencies may, at their discretion and as circumstances dictate, grant a reasonable amount of excused absence to emergency employees who arrive late for work.

    The Washington, DC, Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures, available at https://www.opm.gov/oca/compmemo/dismissal.pdf, discusses the “unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework” announcement in more detail.

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  • For an employee who performs service under a non-GS Federal pay system which is potentially creditable towards a within-grade increase waiting period, an equivalent increase is considered to occur at the time of any of the following personnel actions in the non-GS pay system:

    • A promotion to a higher grade or work level within the non-GS pay system (unless the promotion is cancelled and the employee's rate of basic pay is redetermined as if the promotion had not occurred); or
    • An opportunity to receive a within-level or within-range increase that results in forward movement in the applicable range of rates of basic pay (including an increase granted immediately upon movement to the non-GS pay system from another pay system-e.g., to account for the value of accrued within-grade increases under the former pay system or to provide a promotion-equivalent increase), where "forward movement in the applicable range" means any kind of increase in the employee's rate of basic pay other than an increase that is directly and exclusively linked to (1) a general structural increase in the employee's basic pay schedule or rate range (including the adjustment of a range minimum or maximum) or (2) the employee's placement under a new basic pay schedule within the same pay system, when such placement results in a nondiscretionary basic pay increase to account for occupational pay differences.

    A non-GS pay system is one that does not meet the definition of "General Schedule" or "GS" in 5 CFR 531.403. The personnel actions above must have occurred within the same pay system. That is, even if an employee receives an increase in pay moving between pay systems, that "promotion" or other pay increase is not considered an equivalent increase. See Note 1.

    For example, the DoD NSPS pay system is a non-GS pay system. The following NSPS pay events would be considered equivalent increases under 5 CFR 531.407(b):

    1. A promotion to a higher band under 5 CFR 9901.354, excluding a temporary or probationary promotion that is later cancelled;
    2. Any within-band increase other than a general salary increase under 5 CFR 9901.323, which would include the following:
      • A performance pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.342;
      • A special within-band increase under 5 CFR 9901.344;
      • A developmental pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.345;
      • A pay adjustment upon placement in an NSPS position under 5 CFR 9901.351(c)(a WGI adjustment equivalent) (See Note 1);
      • A reassignment increase under 5 CFR 9901.353 upon reassignment to a position within the same band, including such a reassignment increase granted immediately upon movement from a non-NSPS position (i.e., excluding reassignment to a comparable band, since that band is in a different NSPS pay schedule with its own basic pay schedule);
      • An increase (if any) under 5 CFR 9901.355 provided after a reduction in band in the same pay schedule, including such an increase provided immediately upon movement from a non-NSPS position (i.e., excluding movement to a lower band in a different pay schedule); or
      • A one-time pay adjustment upon conversion to NSPS under 5 CFR 9901.371(j) (e.g., a WGI adjustment) (See Note 1);
      • A noncompetitive promotion equivalent increase provided to eligible employees during the first 12 months following conversion under 5 CFR 9901.371(l).
    3. A zero increase at the time of an opportunity for an increase, which would include the following:
      • A zero performance pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.342, excluding employees who do not have an opportunity for an increase because their rate equals or exceeds a range maximum (See Note 1);
      • A zero developmental pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.345, if there is a fixed schedule for receiving such an increase;
      • A zero pay adjustment (WGI adjustment) upon conversion to NSPS under 9901.371(j), if the zero adjustment was based on the employee being rated below an acceptable level of competence (as defined in 5 CFR part 531, subpart D), as required by NSPS 5 CFR 9901.371(j)(6); or
      • A zero pay adjustment (WGI adjustment equivalent) upon placement in an NSPS position and application of 5 CFR 990.351(c), if the zero adjustment was based on the employee being rated below an acceptable level of competence.

    Note 1: OPM has a general policy that a pay increase resulting from a change in pay system does not count as an equivalent increase. However, the NSPS WGI adjustment and WGI adjustment equivalent are pay adjustments made under the NSPS system after conversion or placement (although effective on the same date). Under the NSPS regulations, employees are converted with no change in pay. The WGI adjustment under 5 CFR 9901.371(j) is a mandatory adjustment following that conversion. The WGI adjustment equivalent under 5 CFR 9901.351(c)(1) also is a mandatory adjustment, and the WGI adjustment equivalent under 5 CFR 9901(c)(2) is a discretionary adjustment, both made following placement in an NSPS position.

    Note 2: To the extent that DoD establishes any control point that serves as a maximum rate for all positions within a defined subcategory within a band based on labor market factors (without regard to performance rating), a pay increase denied solely because of such control point would not be considered to be an opportunity for an increase and thus would not be considered to be an equivalent increase.

    Note 3: Consistent with 5 CFR 531.407(c), a local market supplement adjustment under NSPS would not be considered an equivalent increase. Also, an adjustment resulting from being placed in a subcategory of positions to which a higher supplement applies would not be an equivalent increase.

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  • The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) entitles covered Federal employees to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave (leave without pay) during any 12-month period for certain family and medical needs, including the birth and care of a newborn. An employee may elect to substitute paid leave (e.g., annual or sick leave) for the unpaid FMLA leave, but only to the extent such paid leave is permitted under current law and regulations. If an employee chooses to invoke his or her entitlement to FMLA leave to care for a healthy newborn, he or she may only substitute annual leave for the unpaid leave, as there is no authority to use sick leave to care for a healthy child. An employee's entitlement to FMLA leave expires on the first anniversary of the child's birth.


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  • Agencies do not need to process any personnel actions (SF 50s) for periods of annual leave, military leave, earned compensatory time off for travel, or sick leave since the payroll system documents an employee's use of paid leave. Agencies should document an employee's use of leave without pay (LWOP) to perform duty with the uniformed services by processing a personnel action (SF 50) using nature of action "LWOP-US" (nature of action code 473). The effective date is the first day the employee begins to use leave without pay for duty with the uniformed services.

    Employees may use annual leave, military leave, compensatory time off for travel, or sick leave (consistent with the statutory and regulatory criteria for using sick leave), intermittently with leave without pay while performing duty with the uniformed services. OPM does not require that agencies process return-to-duty actions for each period of paid leave. Periods of "LWOP-US" may be interrupted by periods of annual leave or military leave without the need to process any additional personnel actions.

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  • Yes. An employee may apply for and receive donated annual leave while their application for disability retirement is being processed. Under the Federal leave transfer and leave bank programs, an employee who is experiencing a personal or family medical emergency and who has exhausted his or her available paid leave may request to become an approved leave recipient and receive donated annual leave. Once the disability retirement application has been approved by the Office of Personnel Management, the leave recipient may no longer receive or use donated annual leave beyond the end of the pay period in which the agency receives the notice of allowance of disability retirement.

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  • Yes.  All “highly qualified” personnel, regardless of job series, including Senior Executive Service members, Federal Wage System employees, and employees covered by administratively determined pay systems, are eligible unless specifically excluded by law or regulation.
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  • If a temporary promotion is made permanent immediately after the temporary promotion ends, the employee is not returned to the lower grade in order to process the permanent promotion. See 5 CFR 531.214(e). The agency must convert the temployee's temporary promotion to a permanent promotion without a change in pay. The appropriate action is to process the promotion (nature of action code 702) showing the higher grade as the grade before and after promotion. (See rules 5 and 6, Table 14-B, chapter 14, Office of Personnel Management's Guide to Processing Personnel Actions.) In effect, the promotion increase granted at the time of the temporary promotion is ratified and made permanent by the removal of the not-to-exceed-date limitation on the temporary promotion.

    If there is any period of time between the end of a temporary promotion and the beginning of a permanent promotion, the employee must be returned to the lower grade. As required by 5 CFR 531.215(c), the agency must recompute the employee's rate of basic pay for the lower grade as if the employee had never been temporarily promoted. Also, the agency may choose, at its discretion, to apply the maximum payable rate rule in 5 CFR 531.221 if that would yield a higher rate. Whatever method is used, the resulting rate is the basis for any subsequent promotion. 

    With respect to the "maximum pay rate" rule, please note that an employee's highest previous rate may not be based on a rate received in a position to which the employee was temporarily promoted for less than 1 year, except upon permanent placement in a position at the same or higher grade. (See 5 CFR 531.223(b).) If an agency chooses to apply the maximum payable rate rule, it may set pay at any step equal to or less than the maximum payable rate, but not less than the rate to which the employee is entitled under the normal pay-setting rules.

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  • Hazardous duty pay is additional pay for the performance of hazardous duty or duty involving physical hardship. Hazardous duty pay is payable to General Schedule (GS) employees covered by chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code. Prevailing rate (wage) employees are eligible to receive environmental differential pay in certain circumstances under a separate statutory provision (5 U.S.C. 5343(c)(4)).
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  • Yes. Effective November 24, 2003, all employees who have been activated in support of the national emergency declared by the President are entitled to the 22 days of military leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(b).
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