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Pay & Leave Reference Materials

Report to Congress on the "Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act" (Public Law 103-388)

June 1997

Executive Summary

This report presents the Office of Personnel Management's findings on the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes under the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, Public Law 103-388, October 22, 1994. The Act, which became effective on December 22, 1994, requires the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to submit a report to Congress no later than June 21, 1997, to evaluate the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes and to make recommendations as to whether the entitlements under the Act should continue beyond December 21, 1997.

The Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act authorizes covered full-time employees to use a total of up to 40 hours (5 workdays) of sick leave per year to (1) give care or otherwise attend to a family member having an illness, injury, or other condition which, if an employee had such a condition, would justify the use of sick leave by the employee; or (2) make arrangements for or attend the funeral of a family member. In addition, a covered full-time employee who maintains a balance of at least 80 hours of sick leave may use an additional 64 hours (8 workdays) of sick leave per year for these purposes, bringing the total amount of sick leave available for family care or bereavement purposes to a maximum of 104 hours (13 workdays) per year.

On December 12, 1996, OPM requested that Directors of Personnel provide information on the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes. OPM received responses from 56 agencies. Although most employees may use a total of up to 104 hours (13 workdays) of sick leave each year for family care or bereavement purposes, the average amount of sick leave used in 1995 for these purposes was 23.3 hours (less than 3 workdays), and the average amount of sick leave used in 1996 for these purposes was 28.9 hours (less than 4 workdays). Only about 3 percent of employees who used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes used the maximum of 13 workdays per year. Based on the information provided by the reporting agencies, 228,537 employees used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes in 1995, and 335,201 employees used sick leave for these purposes in 1996, an increase of 46 percent. We attribute this rise to a growing employee awareness of the provisions of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act. In addition, although more female than male employees exercised their entitlement to use sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes, the average number of hours used by males was slightly higher than the average number of hours used by females in both 1995 and 1996.

Data from the Office of Personnel Management's Annual Survey of Work Years and Personnel Costs show that the average number of days of sick leave used by Federal civilian employees in Executive branch agencies (including the U.S. Postal Service) increased from 8.6 days in 1994 to 8.8 days in 1995 and to approximately 9.3 days in 1996(1). Thus, the average number of days of sick leave used for all purposes has increased by about 8 percent since 1994, the year the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act was enacted.

There are a number of factors to which the recent increase in the use of sick leave may be attributed. For example, in addition to the enactment of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, Congress enacted separate legislation in 1994 to permit employees to use sick leave for any purpose related to the adoption of a child and to substitute sick leave retroactively for any annual leave used for adoption-related purposes between September 30, 1991, and September 30, 1994. The changing demographics of the Federal workforce--i.e., more working mothers, single parents, and adult children caring for parents, together with an aging population--also may be responsible for increases in the use of sick leave.

Federal agencies fully support the continuation of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act. Agencies believe the Act demonstrates that the Federal Government recognizes the importance of family responsibilities and is committed to assisting Federal employees in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The general perception is that employees who take time off for these purposes are better able to deal with the financial and personal strains caused by a family member's medical needs or death. When an employer demonstrates support of its employees through this means, it fosters goodwill and creates a more compassionate family friendly workplace, resulting in a more productive workforce.

Recommendation

The Office of Personnel Management recommends that the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act be made permanent.

Leave Flexibilities Available for Family Care Purposes

In response to America's changing demographic realities and a renewed commitment to family values, the Federal Government has for some time pursued a range of family friendly employment policies and programs to help Federal employees balance work and family demands. The Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act is just one of several family friendly leave policies established to achieve a workplace culture that is more family friendly and productive.

Under the current Federal leave system, employees accrue and accumulate annual and sick leave that may be used for paid absences from work. Annual leave accrual rates increase with career longevity so that full-time employees with more than 15 years of Federal service earn substantially more annual leave (26 days) than full-time employees with less than 3 years of service (13 days). In addition, full-time employees earn 13 days of sick leave each year. In most cases, employees use annual leave for vacations and personal needs, including caring for a family member. Sick leave serves as the primary source of income protection for an employee's own sickness or injury. Under the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, Federal employees may now use a limited amount of their sick leave to care for a family member. In addition, employees may use sick leave for purposes related to the adoption of a child. Employees may also request advance annual leave, up to 40 hours of advance sick leave, or leave without pay for family care or bereavement purposes.

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, covered Federal employees are entitled to a total of 12 administrative workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for (a) the birth of a son or daughter and care of the newborn; (b) the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care; (c) the care of a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition; and (d) a serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the duties of his or her position. Employees may elect to substitute their annual leave or sick leave, if appropriate, for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, consistent with current law and regulations.

The Federal leave sharing program assists employees who have depleted their accumulated annual and sick leave. The Federal leave transfer program allows Federal employees to donate annual leave to other Federal employees who have personal or family medical emergencies and who have exhausted their own paid leave. Federal leave banks allow employees to contribute a specified amount of annual leave yearly to their agency leave bank. Leave bank members affected by personal or family medical emergencies can then withdraw leave from the bank if they exhaust their own paid leave.

Prior to the enactment of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published proposed regulations in the Federal Register on May 11, 1994, to expand the use of sick leave by permitting employees to use a total of up to 5 workdays of sick leave each leave year to provide care for a child, spouse, or parent as a result of sickness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth; make arrangements necessitated by the death of a child, spouse, or parent; or attend the funeral of a child, spouse, or parent. Analysis of existing Federal leave policies had shown the need and desire for expanded use of sick leave to care for family members. The report of the National Performance Review (NPR) on September 7, 1993, stated that "family-friendly policies serve the needs of a diverse workforce struggling to manage child care, elder care, family emergencies and other personal responsibilities while at the same time remaining committed to professional development and advancement." The NPR went on to recommend that employees be permitted to use sick leave to care for dependents in order to advance these goals. OPM's proposed changes in the sick leave regulations were part of OPM's continuing effort to develop human resource policies that are sensitive to the needs of employees.

Soon after OPM's proposed regulations were published, the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act (H.R. 4361) was introduced in the 103rd Congress by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. In her opening statement at a hearing on the bill before the House Subcommittee on Compensation and Employee Benefits on May 18, 1994, Congresswoman Norton pointed out that the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in the private sector, 36 percent of employees were granted the right by their employers to use sick leave to care for a sick child. In addition, OPM found that 46 State governments, whose sick leave policies are generally comparable to those of the Federal Government, allowed the use of sick leave for family illnesses.

Under its own regulatory authority, OPM published final regulations implementing the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes on December 2, 1994 (59 FR 62265). OPM's final regulations are consistent with the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, which became effective on December 22, 1994.

The Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act provides explicitly that the term "family member" must be defined in the same way that the term is defined under the OPM regulations governing the Federal leave transfer program. Under 5 CFR 630.902, "family member" means the following relatives of the employee:

  1. Spouse, and parents thereof;
  2. Children, including adopted children, and spouses thereof;
  3. Parents;
  4. Brothers and sisters, and spouses thereof; and
  5. Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.

Thus, the coverage of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act (in terms of the individuals for whom a Federal employee may provide care while on paid sick leave) is somewhat broader than the coverage of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, under which Federal employees may use unpaid leave to care for a "spouse, son, daughter or parent."

Analysis of Leave Data

To enable the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to evaluate the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes, agencies were requested to provide data on the use of sick leave for these purposes. OPM received responses from 56 agencies. (See Appendix 1 for a complete listing of the responding agencies.)

In 1995, the first full leave year in which the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes was permitted, 228,537 employees in the responding agencies (about 10.8 percent of all covered employees) used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes. Although most Federal employees may use a total of up to 104 hours (13 workdays) of sick leave for these purposes, in 1995 the average amount of sick leave used was 23.3 hours (less than 3 workdays). The number of employees using sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes rose in 1996 to 335,201 (17.0 percent of all covered employees), an increase of 46.7 percent from 1995 to 1996. In addition, the average amount of sick leave used for family care or bereavement purposes increased by about 5 hours, to 28.9 hours (less than 4 workdays). We attribute these increases to a growing employee awareness of their entitlement to use sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes. While it is impossible to predict the level of use of sick leave for these purposes in the future, it is reasonable to conclude that there will not be significant increases in the number of employees using sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes now that the program is firmly established and employees are generally aware of their entitlement. (See Appendix 2 for complete data on the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes.)

In 1995, 12.4 percent of eligible female employees and 9.5 percent of eligible male employees in the reporting agencies used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes. The percentage of eligible female employees using sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes rose to 21.1 percent in 1996, while the percentage of male employees using this benefit increased to 13.3 percent. Male employees using sick leave for these purposes used an average of 26.4 hours in 1995 and 30.0 hours in 1996, while female employees used an average of 20.5 hours in 1995 and 28.0 hours in 1996. On average, although more female than male employees exercised their entitlement to use sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes, the average number of hours used by males was slightly higher than the average number of hours used by females in both 1995 and 1996.

Data from OPM's Annual Survey of Work Years and Personnel Costs show that the average number of days of sick leave used by Federal civilian employees in Executive branch agencies (including the U.S. Postal Service) increased from 8.6 days in 1994 to 8.8 days in 1995 and to approximately 9.3 days in 1996(1). Thus, the average number of days of sick leave used for all purposes has increased by about 8 percent since 1994.

There are a number of factors to which the recent increase in the use of sick leave can be attributed. For example, in addition to the enactment of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, Congress enacted separate legislation in 1994 to permit employees to use sick leave for any purpose related to the adoption of a child and to substitute sick leave retroactively for any annual leave used for adoption-related purposes between September 30, 1991, and September 30, 1994. Employees were entitled to request the retroactive substitution of sick leave for annual leave through September 30, 1996. The changing demographics of the Federal workforce--i.e., more working mothers, single parents, and adult children caring for parents, together with an aging population--also may be responsible for increases in the use of sick leave

Agency Reports and Suggestions

General Comments

The Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act has had a very positive impact on employees, managers, and the ability of Federal agencies to accomplish their mission. Overall, agencies reported that the Act has helped employees in their struggle to balance work and family responsibilities, and as a result, has made for a more productive and efficient workplace. The enactment of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act has allowed the Federal Government to be viewed as a flexible and caring employer. In addition, agencies reported that the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act improved communication and instilled a more cooperative attitude between supervisors and employees. Some agencies reported a reduction of grievances filed by employees and disciplinary actions taken by supervisors.

The Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act also has helped to bridge the gap in income protection for employees who have little or no available paid annual leave, but who need paid time off from work for family care or bereavement purposes. For example, leave can be depleted very quickly when an employee is required to provide care concurrently for minor children and elderly parents or is recovering from the death of a parent and simultaneously must make alternative living arrangements for the surviving parent. Allowing an employee to use his or her sick leave precludes the need for extended periods of leave without pay, which has a negative effect on an employee's pay and benefits, such as within-grade increases and health benefits. In addition, the employee is better able to deal with the financial and personal strain caused by a family member's medical needs or death. Many agencies reported a reduction in an employee's level of stress when confronted with a serious illness or death in the family.

Extent to which 13-Day Limitation Meets Employee and Agency Needs

The agencies reported that only about 3.0 percent of those employees who used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes in 1995 and 1996 (and less than 1 percent of all eligible Federal employees) used the maximum of 13 workdays. All of the agencies providing comments stated that the current limitations on the amount of sick leave that may be used each year for family care or bereavement purposes are sufficient to meet most employees' needs. However, although most agencies stated that there were only a small number of employees who used the maximum leave entitlement, there is concern that the 13-day limitation is inadequate for employees affected by long-term, catastrophic illnesses of family members. In addition, one agency believes the 13-day limitation may be insufficient for employees who require extensive travel time to reach family members (e.g., employees stationed overseas), since the travel time significantly reduces the amount of time available for taking care of these individuals. Some agencies believe the 13-day limitation may also be inadequate for employees who are required to provide care concurrently for minor children and elderly parents or are recovering from the death of a parent and simultaneously must make alternative living arrangements for the surviving parent.

Impact on Employees, Managers, and Agency Mission Accomplishment

Federal agencies believe the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes had a very positive impact on employees, managers, and the ability of agencies to accomplish their agency mission. Agencies believe the entitlements provided by the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act show that the Federal Government recognizes the importance of family responsibilities and is committed to assisting Federal employees in balancing the demands of work and family.

Federal agencies also believe the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act allows for better planning for office coverage during employee absences when it is known in advance that an employee will be absent from work. One agency stated that planned preventive care for family members reduces the amount of unplanned "emergency" care. When employees were able to plan in advance, agencies reported that their mission did not falter because employees were more focused and productive while at work, since the employees were able to be with family members in times of need. Agencies believe that under most circumstances the employee would be absent in any event. Therefore, it is better for employee morale and agency planning purposes to have advance notice of the employee's intent to take time off.

The following list summarizes the positive impact noted by agencies of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act on employees, managers, and agency mission accomplishment:

Employees

  • An opportunity to build a reserve of annual leave to use for family vacations instead of family care.
  • Increased financial benefits by avoiding or reducing the use of leave without pay and eliminating the need to hire outside help to care for a family member.
  • New alternatives for managing short-term care and making long-term care arrangements.
    • Sharing of family care responsibilities by spouses.
    • More honesty in sick leave usage. (Employees no longer need to feign their own illness when their presence is required to care for a family member.)
    • More control in the struggle to balance work and family responsibilities.
    • Less stress and anxiety in times of emotional need and concern.
    • Greater ability for single parents and parents of young children to deal with routine and unexpected medical needs.

Managers

  • Enhanced employee morale.
  • More incentive for employees to save their sick leave.
  • A new recruitment and retention tool.
  • More productive employees.
  • Improved communication between supervisors and employees.

Agency Mission Accomplishment

  • Greater workplace productivity and efficiency.
  • Acceptance by coworkers of increased workloads to assist employees who are absent from work because of family illnesses or bereavement.
  • Perception of Federal Government as a flexible and caring employer.
  • A cooperative attitude between management and employees.

Most of the agencies that provided comments reported that the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes did not have a significant negative impact on employees, managers, or agency mission accomplishment. A few agencies listed concerns of various individual managers. However, most agencies expressed the view that the positive impacts noted above far outweigh any potential problems generated by employees' absences from work. Most managers believe that, in most instances, an employee's family situation would require the employee to be absent from work in any event. The following list summarizes the concerns noted by agencies:

Employees

  • Reduced sick leave balance available for employees' own illnesses.

Managers

  • Increased administrative work due to the lack of fully automated timekeeping procedures to track the use of sick leave for these purposes.
  • More short-notice absences.
  • Greater need for employees and managers to schedule "use or lose" annual leave (to avoid forfeiture at the end of the leave year).
  • Need to resolve disputes associated with defining the term "family member."
  • Pressure to approve the request for sick leave if conditions meet the requirements of law.

Agency Mission Accomplishment

  • More absences from work. Employees scheduled medical appointments for family members during duty hours rather than off-duty hours, were less likely to look at other family care alternatives, and were more likely to take sick leave for "marginal circumstances" when they would have otherwise sought other options.
  • Scheduling and workload problems for small agencies, resulting in higher overtime pay costs.
  • Slower accomplishment of agency goals (especially when combined with other leave flexibilities provided in recent years).
  • Increased costs to the Government. (Employees covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) who might otherwise take unpaid leave and forfeit unused sick leave at retirement are compensated for sick leave used for family care or bereavement purposes.)
  • Unlike the Civil Service Retirement System, the sick leave of employees covered by FERS is not used in the computation of an employee's retirement annuity. Some agencies are concerned that since unused sick leave will be forfeited, FERS employees have little incentive to conserve their sick leave. However, others believe there is an additional incentive to save leave because employees must maintain at least 80 hours of sick leave in their account in order to receive the full benefit of using 104 hours (13 workdays) of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes.

Impact on Other Federal Leave Policies and Programs

The Office of Personnel Management asked agencies whether the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes reduced employees' use of annual leave, leave without pay, or donated annual leave under the Federal voluntary leave transfer and/or leave bank programs.

The majority of agencies believe the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes has reduced the use of annual leave by employees. However, many agencies believe that, in certain instances, sick leave had been used for the care of a child prior to the enactment of this law. For example, a parent who was up all night caring for a sick child may have been too tired or ill the next day to go to work and would request sick leave. In the past, this scenario created many conflicts between managers and employees. One agency reported that the entitlement to use sick leave for family care purposes reduced the number of disciplinary actions taken by the agency based on leave abuse.

Data from the Office of Personnel Management's Annual Survey of Work Years and Personnel Costs show that the average number of days of annual leave used by Federal civilian employees in Executive branch agencies (including the U.S. Postal Service) decreased slightly from 21.1 days in 1994 to 20.1 days in 1995 and to approximately 20.9 days in 1996.(2)

The majority of agencies believe the use of leave without pay has decreased slightly. In fact, some agencies believe that when an employee is forced to request leave without pay, it is because the family member has a long-term or catastrophic condition and the employee has already exhausted his or her annual leave and 13 days of sick leave for family care.

Overall, agencies believe there has been very little impact on the Federal voluntary leave transfer and leave bank programs. However, as employees became aware of their entitlements under the family friendly leave programs, a few agencies found that more employees were participating in the leave transfer and leave bank programs--both as donors and recipients. One agency noted that employees were more generous in donating their annual leave, presumably because they now can use their own sick leave for family care purposes.

One agency reported that less donated annual leave is being used. This may be attributed to the fact that before an employee is eligible to become a leave recipient under the voluntary leave transfer and leave bank programs or to use any donated annual leave, he or she must exhaust all available paid leave, including any sick leave available to the employee for family care or bereavement purposes, if appropriate. Prior to the enactment of the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, employees were required to exhaust only their annual leave if they were affected by a medical emergency involving a family member. Since an employee must first use his or her available sick leave for family care purposes before using donated annual leave under the leave transfer and leave bank programs, employees are using less donated annual leave.

OPM received a number of comments on its regulations in 5 CFR 630.1205, which limits the amount of sick leave that may be substituted for leave without pay under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) when caring for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition. OPM's regulations are consistent with 5 U.S.C. 6382(d), which states that an employee may elect to substitute "accrued or accumulated annual or sick leave" for unpaid leave under the FMLA "except that nothing in this subchapter shall require an employing agency to provide paid sick leave in any situation in which such employing agency would not normally provide any such paid leave." In other words, sick leave may be granted for any period during which the use of sick leave would otherwise be permitted by law or regulation. Some commenters believe Congress intended to allow Federal employees to substitute any or all of their sick leave for unpaid leave under the FMLA when caring for a family member. However, the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act is the only law that permits the use of sick leave to care for a family member, and it restricts the amount of sick leave that may be used for such purposes to not more than 13 days each year. As a result, an employee may substitute a total of up to 13 days of sick leave for leave without pay under the FMLA if he or she is caring for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition.

Agencies' Suggestions

The reporting agencies suggested one or more of the following changes to improve the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act:

1. Increase the amount of sick leave that may be used for family care or bereavement purposes.

Of the 56 agencies that responded, 24 (almost half) suggested increasing the maximum entitlement of 104 hours (13 workdays) on a case-by-case basis for employees with extenuating circumstances, such as long-term catastrophic or terminal illnesses. One agency suggested raising the maximum entitlement for all employees based on years of creditable service. Another agency suggested increasing the maximum entitlement to 240 hours (30 workdays), while others suggested having no limitation on the amount of sick leave that may be used for family care or bereavement purposes.

Agencies expressed concern that employees who were caring for family members with catastrophic or terminal health conditions and who had large sick leave balances were frustrated that they could not use their own accumulated sick leave to care for their family member. The agencies had great difficulty explaining the reasoning for this, especially since such employees were eligible to use annual leave donated by other employees to take time off from work to care for a family member. Other agencies were concerned that employees stationed overseas with family members in the United States were at a disadvantage, since most of the 13 days would be spent en route to the United States.

Based on the information reported, we do not believe there is a compelling reason to increase the maximum amount of sick leave that may be used for family care or bereavement purposes. Only about 3 percent of employees who used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes (and less than 1 percent of all Federal employees) used the maximum entitlement of 13 days. We believe the current limit of 13 days is sufficient for most employees to meet their family medical needs when viewed in the context of other available family friendly leave options and entitlements and other flexibilities available to employees for changing their work schedules. For example, agencies reported that most of the employees who needed additional time off to care for a family member with a catastrophic or life-threatening illness or injury were currently receiving donated annual leave under the Federal leave transfer and leave bank programs.

2. Reduce/eliminate the requirement to maintain 80 hours of sick leave in an employee's account.

Fifteen agencies suggested eliminating the requirement to maintain an 80-hour sick leave balance in order to use the additional 64 hours (8 workdays) of sick leave per year. These agencies believe this would reduce the administrative burden of tracking an employee's leave account and prevent discrimination against those employees who do not have an 80-hour sick leave balance (e.g., newly hired employees, employees affected by illnesses or injuries, or new mothers).

On the other hand, however, one agency suggested that employees be required to maintain 40 hours of sick leave in their account before receiving any entitlement to use sick leave under the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act. The agency believes this would encourage all employees to save sick leave for personal use and avoid short-term leave without pay situations. Another agency commented that the requirement to maintain a minimum sick leave balance provides an incentive to employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System to conserve their sick leave. On balance, we believe the current requirement represents an appropriate means of providing an incentive to conserve sick leave for an employee's own personal medical needs.

3. Simplify leave administration.

One agency recommended simplifying leave administration by not having separate leave categories. The agency suggested that each employee be provided a set amount of leave that he or she may choose to use for whatever purpose is desired. This would eliminate arguments over the definitions of "family member" and "serious health condition," whether someone was or is "really sick," and insufficient medical certificates. Another agency recommended eliminating the requirement to track the use of sick leave under the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act, while still another agency suggested changing the leave application form to facilitate recordkeeping.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has considered the possibility of combining annual and sick leave in a single leave category in the past, but has determined that such a change could not be made without other major changes in the Federal leave system. OPM will continue to keep this suggestion in mind as we continue to evaluate the use of sick leave for family care, bereavement, and adoption purposes.

While it would be possible to eliminate some of the tracking requirements in OPM regulations, the law still requires agencies to track the amount of sick leave used by individual employees for these purposes to ensure that each employee does not use more than his or her entitlement--i.e., 5 or 13 workdays, as applicable. However, we believe there will not be any further need for agencies to maintain records concerning the use of sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes for the sole purpose of reporting to OPM. Therefore, we plan to delete this requirement from our regulations.

OPM has been working with an interagency task force to revise the form currently used to apply for leave (SF-71) to reflect the new family friendly leave policies. We expect to issue a new leave form in the very near future.

4. Change definition of "family member."

Three agencies commented on the definition of "family member." One agency recommended limiting the definition of "family member" to those individuals covered by the definitions of "spouse," "son or daughter," and "parent" under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. However, two agencies suggested that the definition of "family member" be broadened to include "life mates," "domestic partners," and similar individuals. OPM does not believe any changes are needed in the current definition of "family member" for family care or bereavement purposes.

5. Miscellaneous Suggestions

  • Allow the use of sick leave for other "family friendly" purposes—e.g., to attend parent-teacher conferences, special education eligibility meetings and hearings, honor roll receptions, school field trips, or other school activities or sports events.
  • Require that employees provide a medical or death certificate, as appropriate. Clarify the type of certification a supervisor may request.
  • Require all employees to provide advance notice to the supervisor, to the extent practicable, of their need to use sick leave for family care purposes, so that supervisors can effectively manage work requirements.
  • Publish a brochure or pamphlet to explain the Federal Government's family friendly leave policies.
  • Allow employees to carry over any of the unused 13 workdays of sick leave to the next leave year.

On April 11, 1997, the President issued a memorandum on "Expanded Family and Medical Leave Policies," which asks Federal agencies to assist employees further in meeting their work and family needs. The President asked agencies to use currently available administrative authorities to ensure that employees may schedule and be granted up to 24 hours of leave without pay each year to (1) participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a child; (2) accompany their children to routine medical or dental appointments, such as annual check ups and vaccinations; and (3) accompany their elderly relatives to routine medical or dental appointments or other professional services related to the care of the elderly relative, such as making arrangements for housing, meals, telephones, banking services, and other similar activities.

In addition, the President requested that agencies support employees' requests to schedule paid time off--such as annual leave, sick leave, compensatory time off, and credit hours under flexible work schedules--for these family activities when these options are available to an employee.

OPM's regulations in 5 CFR 630.403 currently provide agencies authority to require medical certification or other evidence that is administratively acceptable to the agency to verify an employee's request for sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes. In addition, 5 CFR 630.402 permits agencies to require advance notification of leave for the purposes of receiving medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment and, to the extent possible, for other sick leave purposes authorized under the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act.

In response to numerous agency requests for information on the Federal Government's family friendly leave policies and programs, OPM has published a number of documents: an employee brochure on "Family-Friendly Leave Policies for Federal Employees;" three fact sheets on "Family-Friendly Leave Policies," "Sick Leave to Care For a Family Member," and "Federal Employee Entitlements under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993;" and "The Work and Family Kit."

These publications are available on OPM's electronic Bulletin Board System. In addition, the employee brochure, "Family-Friendly Leave Policies for Federal Employees," is available for purchase from the Government Printing Office (LEAVE-95-1). In the near future, these publications will be available on OPM's World Wide Web site at www.opm.gov.

Leave is not accrued under the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act. The Act permits employees to use their currently accrued and accumulated sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes. There is no statutory basis for permitting employees to carry over any of the remaining 13 workdays of sick leave that are unused to the following leave year. In addition, we believe the annual limit of 13 workdays of sick leave to care for an ill or injured family member or for bereavement purposes is an ample amount of time for most employees to meet family medical needs when viewed in the context of other available options and entitlements. In addition to the 13 workdays of sick leave available for family care or bereavement purposes, employees may also use annual leave, donated annual leave under the Federal leave sharing program, flexible work schedules, flexiplace, unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, and compensatory time off.

Summary and Recommendation

Federal agencies overwhelmingly support the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act and believe it should be made permanent. The agencies found that the entitlements provided by the Act had a very positive impact on employees, managers, and the ability of the agency to accomplish its mission. Agencies also believe the Act shows that the Federal Government recognizes the importance of family responsibilities and is willing to help employees who are faced with family medical situations.

Based on our review of the program established by the Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act and the overwhelming support expressed by agencies, the Office of Personnel Management recommends that this program be made permanent.

Appendix 1 - List of Agencies

Agencies

  • Administrative Office of the United States Courts
  • American Battle Monuments Commission
  • Commission on Civil Rights
  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board
  • Executive Office of the President
  • Export-Import Bank of the United States
  • Farm Credit Administration
  • Farm Credit System Insurance Corporation
  • Federal Communications Commission
  • Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
  • Federal Labor Relations Authority
  • Federal Maritime Commission
  • General Accounting Office
  • General Services Administration
  • Government Printing Office
  • Holocaust Museum
  • Inter-American Foundation
  • Library of Congress
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • National Archives and Records Administration National Credit Union Administration
  • National Endowment for the Arts
  • National Endowment for the Humanities
  • National Labor Relations Board
  • National Science Foundation
  • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Office of Government Ethics
  • Office of Personnel Management
  • Office of Special Counsel
  • Overseas Private Investment Corporation
  • Panama Canal Commission

Departments

  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Defense
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Health and Human Services
  • Housing and Urban Development
  • Interior
  • Justice
  • Labor
  • State
  • Transportation
  • Treasury
  • Veterans Affairs

Appendix 2 - Use of Sick Leave for Family Care and Bereavement Purposes

1995
DescriptionMalesFemalesTotal
Total number of employees who used sick leave for family care and bereavement purposes 108,829 120,512 228,537
Perecentage of elegible employees who used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes 9.51% 12.43% 10.81%
Average number of hours sick leave used for family care or bereavement purposes (among those who used sick leave for those purposes) 26.35 20.46 23.34
Number of employees who used the maximum 13-day entitlement for family care or bereavement 3,523 3,288 6,810
Percentage of employees using sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes who used maximum 13-day entitlement 3.25% 2.73% 2.97%

1996
DescriptionMalesFemalesTotal
Total number of employees who used sick leave for family care and bereavement purposes 153,728 181,155 335,201
Perecentage of elegible employees who used sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes 13.30% 21.08% 17.04%
Average number of hours sick leave used for family care or bereavement purposes (among those who used sick leave for those purposes) 30.01 28.08 28.94
Number of employees who used the maximum 13-day entitlement for family care or bereavement 5,067 5,153 10,221
Percentage of employees using sick leave for family care or bereavement purposes who used maximum 13-day entitlement 3.30% 2.84% 3.05%

See Appendix 1 for a list of the reporting agencies.

Notes:

  1. The average number of days of sick leave used in 1996 is a preliminary figure estimated from data provided by Executive branch agencies as part of the Annual Survey of Work Years and Personnel Costs for fiscal year 1996. This figure is subject to change as additional information is provided to OPM by the agencies.
  2. The average number of day of annual leave used in 1996 is a preliminary figure estimated from data provided by Executive branch agencies as part of the Annual Survey of Work Years and Personnel Costs for fiscal year 1996. This figure is subject to change as additional information is provided to OPM by the agencies.

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