Last week, Congressional Democrats introduced legislation to allow more federal employees to carry over their annual leave into 2021, if they were unable to take time off due to the coronavirus pandemic. Federal workers can only carry a maximum of 30 days of annual leave over from one year to the next. Whatever time off that is not used beyond that is lost.
The OPM’s current policy only waives the 30-day annual leave cap for essential employees affected by the pandemic. The new legislation created by Democrats in Congress seeks to extend the waiver to all federal workers.
Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), along with her colleagues Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), introduced the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act, legislation that will allow all federal workers to carry over the leave they have accrued when a national pandemic prevents employees from taking time off of work.
These lawmakers argued that even if a federal employee is technically not considered “essential” under the OPM’s waiver, many employees have not taken leave for various reasons. Many federal workers that amass over 240 hours of annual leave either have to attempt to use the time before the end of the year or simply lose the hours above the cap. Being able to comfortably use leave hours during a national pandemic may not be possible for a large amount of government employees because they often provide some form of critical government service for taxpayers, such as working jobs that directly attempt to limit exposure to COVID-19.
“Thousands of dedicated federal workers have been tirelessly responding to the coronavirus pandemic, including U.S. Postal Service employees, Internal Revenue Service and Social Security Administration workers, and National Institutes of Health researchers,” Senator Hirono said, “Our nation has leaned on them as they deliver medicines and Social Security checks, assist Americans with filing their taxes, develop a vaccine, and provide other vital services. This bill makes sure that no federal worker loses their leave because of this or any future pandemic.”
Federal employee groups were fast to endorse the legislation, which currently has four cosponsors in the House and seven in the Senate.
“Federal employees have continued serving the American people, whether in person or remotely, since the start of this pandemic, in many cases forgoing planned vacations or personal leave to ensure that the government’s vital services continue uninterrupted,” said Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
This Act will help alleviate and compensate the burden placed on federal employees by giving them time back that they deserve.