OPM gives break to Y2K workers

Faced with the prospect of using or losing vacation days, government employees who must stay on the job because of the Year 2000 problem will be able to carry over annual leave days, the Office of Personnel Management said last week.

Fixing the Year 2000 problem requires government employees to work above and beyond the demands of their regular workload, OPM said in a final rule published in the Federal Register. As a result, some employees have been unable to take or schedule vacation days during the year and were in danger of losing days that could not be carried over, OPM said.

These days usually would be restored if they were scheduled and then canceled, but OPM said that employees will not have to go through this administrative hassle.

"When there is no possibility that an employee can be away from the workplace, we believe requiring efforts to schedule and cancel leave flies in the face of OPM's commitment to provide agencies with the human resources management tools they need to address Y2K computer conversion problems," OPM said in the rule.

Many people will be required to work during the Year 2000 rollover, including data center employees, technical support staff and others collecting and evaluating information coming in from external sources.

With the Year 2000 issue in mind, the Patent and Trademark Office earlier this year told its employees to take annual leave before the December holidays, said Ron Hack, administrator of telecommunications and computer operations at PTO. The agency already has identified the teams who will need to work or be on call during the rollover, he said. Still, the new rule "takes a little bit of pressure off the situation," Hack said.

For Defense Department employees, the decision to restrict leave for Year 2000-related work has been left up to the individual commands and agencies based on operational requirements, said Col. Kevin McHale, head of the Marine Corps' Year 2000 effort.

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