The NDAA included a provision that determined, because of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal employees should be allowed to carry over 125 percent of their normal excess leave into the new year, under eligibility determined by OPM.
Under the memorandum issued to agency heads, all civil service and Postal Service employees are entitled to such expanded leave carryover, with the exception of an employee “occupying a position that is classified at or above the level of a Senior Executive Service position or the equivalent thereof” or an employee of “nonappropriated fund instrumentality.”
For most feds working in the U.S., the normal 240-hour carryover limit is temporarily expanded to 300 hours. Those employees stationed outside the U.S. who can typically carry over up to 360 hours will instead have 450 hours of carryover from 2020 to 2021.
The law also clarifies that those employees who are entitled to have their excess leave restored in the new year — such as essential employees who were not allowed to take time off while they worked on pandemic response — should go through the restoration processes first before having their additional leave carried over into 2021.
This distinction is due to the differing applications of restored versus carried-over leave. Restored leave is generally placed in a separate account, which allows an employee to have wider uses for that time off than they would if it were added back into their annual leave totals.
Employees must also use their extra carried-over leave first before any other leave available to them and cannot donate that leave under transfer programs.
Leave carryover begins on the first pay period of 2021, which in this case fell on Jan. 3 for most employees. OPM has delegated to agency heads the authority to implement the expanded leave provisions for their employees.