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Administrative leave (also referred to as “excused absence”) is an administratively authorized absence from duty without loss of pay or charge to leave.
Although administrative leave is not expressly referenced in title 5, the authority to grant an excused absence derives from the inherent authority for heads of agencies to prescribe regulations for the government of their organizations. (See, e.g., 5 U.S.C. 301-302.)
The Comptroller General has issued many decisions acknowledging that heads of Executive agencies have broad authority to manage their organizations, including the authority to grant administrative leave, unless prohibited by law.
Administrative leave is not an entitlement, and agencies are not required to grant it. However, in special circumstances covered by Governmentwide directives or in reaction to emergencies, agencies may have policies and practices in place that provide for automatic application of administrative leave.
Each agency has the authority and discretion to excuse employees from duty without loss of pay or charge to leave in appropriate circumstances.
Over the years, Executive agencies inside the Washington, DC, capital beltway have agreed to follow OPM’s dismissal announcements in accordance with our published guidance. See Washington, DC, Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures.
Federal Executive Boards in 28 cities coordinate dismissal or closure procedures in other metropolitan areas.
The President or OPM may issue Governmentwide policies or guidance from time to time regarding a specific use of administrative leave.
To promote equity and consistency across Government, OPM advises that administrative leave be limited to those situations not specifically prohibited by law and satisfying one or more of the following criteria:
As a general rule, administrative leave should not be used for an extended or indefinite period or on a recurring basis.
During severe weather (e.g., hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, snow, ice) or other emergencies (e.g., fires, earthquakes, power outages), an agency has the authority to grant employees administrative leave consistent with OPM guidance.
OPM does not regulate the use of administrative leave. This authority rests with each agency head. However, with regard to performance deficiencies and misconduct, Comptroller General decisions are instructive. These decisions suggest that approval for administrative leave should generally be limited to situations involving brief absences.
In rare circumstances, administrative leave may be used for an employee while suspension or removal adverse action procedures have been proposed. OPM adverse action regulations set forth authorities and options available to agencies to address concerns that may arise once an agency elects to pursue an adverse action against an employee. Specifically, the employee may be placed in a paid, non-duty status for the time necessary to effect the adverse action if the organization determines that the employee's continued presence on the job during the notice period may:
However, OPM strongly recommends agencies consider other options prior to use of administrative leave in this scenario. Other options include:
As previously noted, OPM does not regulate the use of administrative leave. This authority rests with each agency head. With this in mind, OPM recommends that agencies review their current policies regarding the proper use of administrative leave. While administrative leave may be appropriate under various circumstances, supervisors often place employees on administrative leave rather than utilizing other options that may be more appropriate, as discussed above.
In reviewing agency policies, OPM recommends agencies take steps to ensure that agency policies on administrative leave related to performance deficiencies and misconduct address the following:
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