Giving, taking leave

Occasionally, a fed becomes ill and exhausts all of his or her leave but still needs more. What can be done? Well, there are two available options: leave sharing and leave banks.

Leave sharing is a way federal employees can help each other through the direct donation of annual leave. All agencies are required to have a direct leave-transfer program that allows a fed to donate leave directly to a fellow employee. Any unused leave is returned to the donor.

Typically, a memo will go out detailing a particular employee's need for donated leave with instructions on how to proceed. There is no limit on the amount of leave a recipient may receive from the donor(s). The problem with leave sharing is that because the program is voluntary, there may not be anyone willing to donate.

Another approach is to join your agency's leave bank, if available. Then you are eligible to receive annual leave from the bank if you experience a personal or family medical emergency and have exhausted your paid leave. Any unused donated leave is returned to the bank, not to the donors. To become and remain a leave bank member, each leave year you must donate at least the amount of annual leave you normally accrue in one pay period (i.e., four, six or eight hours).

To receive leave, full-time employees who have already exhausted their paid leave must be absent from work because of a medical emergency for at least 24 hours (i.e., three working days). For part-time employees or employees on unusual tours of duty, the period of anticipated absence without paid leave is a pro.rated amount. The amount an employee can receive is determined by the directors of the agency leave bank.

In any leave year, an employee may donate to the leave bank up to one-half of the total leave he or she would accrue during that year. If you have "use or lose" annual leave, you may donate whichever is less: one-half of the annual leave you would accrue, or the number of hours remaining in the leave year for which you are scheduled to work and receive pay.

While using donated leave, you can accrue no more than 40 hours of annual leave and 40 hours of sick leave in what are called set-aside accounts. The leave in the set-aside accounts will be transferred to your regular leave accounts when the medical emergency ends or if you exhaust all the donated leave.

If your medical emergency lasts for an extended period of time and you accrue more than 40 hours of annual leave and 40 hours of sick leave, you lose the excess amount. That's the price you pay for receiving donated leave from your agency's leave bank.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at


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