Congress

House bill would protect unused leave during COVID-19

employee data (kentoh/Shutterstock.com) 

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) wants to make sure that federal workers would be able to retain any paid leave they accrued but were unable to use due to added job obligations as a result of COVID-19.

Ordinarily, federal employees are only allowed to carry over 30 days of annual leave into a new year. Any additional leave, known as annual "use or lose" leave, essentially evaporates at the end of the year. Wexton is hoping to change that arrangement with the Federal Frontline Worker Leave Protection Act, introduced on May 5.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, "an agency may restore annual leave that was forfeited due to an exigency of the public business or sickness of the employee only if the annual leave was scheduled in writing."

Rep. Wexton’s bill would designate COVID-19 as an exigent circumstance in order to allow federal workers to roll over any unused leave hours due to the pandemic. The measure would retroactively apply to any leave an employee lost as a result of working through COVID-19 once it passed into law.

"Our federal workers are stepping up and working tirelessly to help Americans weather this crisis, [and] taking time off is not an option for many federal employees," Wexton said in a statement announcing the bill. "Federal workers should not be forced to lose their benefits while they carry out the essential work of government. We owe it to them to protect what they’ve earned."

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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