OPM proposes Y2K leave carry-over law

The Office of Personnel Management has proposed a rule that will make it easier for federal managers to restore leave forfeited by personnel working on the Year 2000 problem.

Although federal employees are allowed to carry over no more than 240 hours of annual leave to the next year, the law stipulates that employees working on pressing issues—such as Year 2000 computer fixes—may carry over additional leave time they lose because of the urgent nature of their work. However, this places a burden on employees who must reschedule their leave time and managers who must cancel and later restore it.

In its proposed rule, OPM noted the likelihood that many federal employees working on Year 2000 fixes run the risk of missing out on leave this year. The rule would allow these employees to place forfeited leave in a separate "restored leave account" that would not be subject to use-or-lose rules.

"The regulations provide that excess annual leave forfeited by employees who are unable to schedule and use their leave as a result of Y2K computer conversion efforts will be deemed to have been scheduled in advance and therefore eligible for restoration," the proposed rule said. Comments on the proposal are due this week.

An OPM spokesman said the agency developed the proposed rule in response to concerns from officials at the Office of Management and Budget and other agencies that the normal process of canceling and restoring leave lost because of the Year 2000 problem could create an enormous burden on employees and managers. He said the rule will eliminate that hindrance.

"If leave is denied, that creates administrative work to carry it over," the spokesman said. "So instead of having people go through bureaucratic red tape, any [unused] leave beyond 240 hours [automatically] will be carried over for two years."

The rule also would lift the anxiety some employees may feel over the possibility of losing their leave time, the spokesman said.

A spokesman for John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said members of the council are "very supportive" of the rule.

"If we are going to ask people to work at a time when they would normally be taking leave, it does not make sense to penalize them," the spokesman said.

A notice of the proposed rule that appeared last month in the Federal Register said the proposed procedures are similar to those established for Defense Department employees involved in base closures.

The OPM spokesman said officials "don't expect any problems" with final approval of the rule and will issue final regulations "probably not too far down the road.

"We don't imagine too many people out there will be opposed to this," he said. "It's an effort to get around a bureaucratic requirement."

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