Frequently Asked Questions: Leave

Can I donate some of my accrued sick leave to the ELTP?

No.  According to government-wide regulations for the ELTP, employees may ONLY donate accrued annual leave to the program.

How much annual leave may I donate to the ELTP?

The minimum number of hours of annual leave that can be donated is 1 hour.  The maximum number of hours of annual leave that can be donated in a leave year is 104 hours.

How do I donate annual leave to the HHS ELTP?

You [or your timekeeper or administrative officer (AO) on your behalf] may donate the leave through the time and attendance system (ITAS).  Just click on the left menu item “Donate Leave.”  Once in that screen, choose the VLTP recipient set up as “ELTP, HHS.”  Select a leave type (either annual leave or restored annual leave, as appropriate) and insert the number of hours you wish to donate.  Click on “OK.”  You and your Leave Approving Official (LAO) will receive an e-mail with information regarding your donation.  Once your LAO approves the donation, the hours will be deducted from your leave balance in the time and attendance system. 

Can an employee be denied FMLA leave?

FMLA leave is an entitlement to employees who qualify under all conditions of eligibility, notice, certification, usage purpose, and if the FMLA leave entitlement has not been exhausted within the 12 month period. By satisfying all eligible conditions, an employee may not be denied FMLA leave.

Who is eligible for FMLA?

All federal employees who have completed at least 12 months of federal service.

The following employees are not covered:

  • Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps Officers
  • Employees with intermittent appointments
  • Employees with temporary appointments of less than 13 months
  • Individuals not appointed by the government, such as:
    • Intramural Research Training Award Fellows
    • Guest Researchers
    • Visiting Fellows
    • Special Volunteers
For whom can FMLA leave be used?

Family members under FMLA fall under a narrow definition. FMLA leave may be used for:

  • Employee (self)
  • Employee’s child(ren)
  • Employee’s parent(s)
  • Employee’s spouse (legal marriage regardless of sex or state of residency)
  • “Next of kin” under military caregiver leave
What types of family and medical needs qualify under FMLA?

FMLA leave may be used for:

  • the birth of a son or daughter of the employee and the care of such son or daughter
  • the placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care
  • the care of a spouse, son or daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition
  • a serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her position
  • qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, a son or daughter, or a parent of the employee is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces
  • military caregiver leave
What is a serious health condition under FMLA?

A serious health condition can involve some or all of the following:

  • Conditions that require inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility
  • Conditions that incapacitate an employee or employee’s family member for more than three consecutive days and require ongoing medical treatment
  • Chronic conditions that cause occasional periods when an employee or employee’s family member are incapacitated and require treatment by a health care provider
  • Pregnancy and childbirth

This definition includes conditions such as cancer, heart attacks, strokes, severe injuries, Alzheimer's disease, and/or terminal diseases. A serious health condition is not intended to cover short-term condit ions for which treatment and recovery are very brief, such as common cold, influenza, earaches, upset stomach, headaches (other than migraines), and/or routine dental or orthodontia problems unless complications arise.

What is a qualifying exigency related to covered active duty in the Armed Forces?

FMLA can be used when a family member is called to or is on covered active duty. FMLA can help in the following situations.  Specific terms can be found on the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) fact sheet.

  • Short-notice deployment
  • Military events and related activities
  • Childcare and school activities
  • Care of service member’s parent
  • Financial and legal arrangements
  • Counseling
  • Rest and recuperation
  • Post-deployment activities
What is covered active duty for FMLA qualifying exigency?

FMLA can be used when a family member is called to or is on active duty. Covered active duty or call to covered active duty status refers to:

  • Regular component of the Armed Forces - duty during the deployment of the service member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country under a call or order to active duty (or notification of an impending call or order to active duty)
  • Member of a reserve component of the Armed Forces - duty during the deployment of the service member with the Armed Forces to a foreign country under a call or order to active duty (or notification of an impending call or order to active duty)
What is military caregiver leave under FMLA?

Military caregiver leave allows eligible employees to take up to 26 weeks of leave in a single 12-month period to care for a family member (spouse, son or daughter, parent, next of kin) who is a covered service member/veteran with a serious injury or illness. Military caregiver leave is available to an eligible employee once per service member, per serious injury or illness.

The “next of kin” of a covered service member/veteran is the nearest blood relative, other than the veteran’s spouse, parent, son, or daughter, in the following order of priority:

  1. a blood relative who has been designated in writing by the service member as the next of kin for FMLA purposes
  2. blood relative who has been granted legal custody of the service member
  3.  brothers and sisters
  4. grandparents
  5. aunts and uncles
  6. first cousins

A veteran who is undergoing medical treatment, recuperation, or therapy for a serious injury or illness is a cover ed veteran if he or she:

  • was a member of the Armed Forces (including a member of the National Guard or Reserves)
  • was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable
  • was discharged within the five -year period before the eligible employee fir st takes FMLA military caregiver leave to care for him or her

A serious injury or illness is one that is incurred by a service member while on active duty that may cause the service member to be medically unfit to perform the duties of his or her office, grade, rank, or rating. A serious injury or illness also includes injuries or illnesses that existed before the service member’s active duty and that were aggravated by service while on active duty.

For what other purposes can an employee use FMLA leave?

Federal employees can use 24 hours of leave without pay during any 12-month period to fulfill certain family obligations:

  • School and Early Childhood Educational Activities - to allow employees to participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a child
  • Routine Family Medical Purposes - to allow parents to accompany children to routine medical or dental appointments
  • Elderly Relatives' Health or Care Needs - to allow employees to accompany an elderly relative to routine medical or dental appointments or other professional services
Can I lose my position by using FMLA leave?

Upon return from FMLA leave, an employee must be restored to his or her original job, or to an "equivalent" job, which means virtually identical to the original job in t erms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions. While on an intermittent/reduced schedule for FMLA, the employer may transfer the employee temporarily to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits that accommodates recurring periods of leave better than the employee's regular job. An employee may also request a temporary alternative position subject to approval by employer while on an intermittent/reduced schedule.

Will employees on “leave restrictions” be allowed to apply and receive donations from the Leave Bank?

The Leave Bank Office will consult with the Employee Relations Specialist and make determinations on an individual basis.

Will I lose my benefits coverage while on FMLA leave?

An employee who takes FMLA leave is entitled to maintain health benefits coverage. An employee on unpaid FMLA leave may pay the employee share of the premiums on a current basis or pay upon return to work. Being in a leave without pay (or unpai d FMLA leave) status affects various employee entitlements, including the accrual of annual and sick leave. For example, when a full- time employee with an 80 -hour biweekly tour of duty accumulates a total of 80 hours of nonpay status (either in one pay per iod, or over the course of several pay periods), the employee will not earn annual and sick leave in the pay period. Further details on the effects of extended leave without pay on federal benefits and programs can be found on this NIH Benefits and Payroll Liaison Branch fact sheet.

Can I donate sick leave to the Leave Bank?

No. By law, sick leave cannot be donated to a Leave Bank or a recipient of the VLTP.

Can a leave approving official/supervisor mandate an employee to take FMLA leave?

A federal employee is responsible for requesting leave or other time off fr om work; therefore, the employee is responsible for invoking his/her entitlement to FMLA leave. Under 5 CFR 630.1203(h), an agency may not subtract leave from the 12-week FMLA leave entitlement unless the agency has obtained confirmation from the employee of his or her intent to invoke entitlement to FMLA leave (e.g., giving notice). However, an employee may be required to invoke FMLA to secure leave approving official’s approval of LWOP, advanced annual leave, advanced sick leave, or hours from Voluntary Leave Transfer Program and/or Leave Bank Program – all leave categories/programs that are not employee entitlements.

Can I change my mind after I have donated leave to the Leave Bank and request to have my leave returned?

No. By law, donations to a Leave Bank or to a Leave Recipient cannot be returned to the donor after the donation has been processed.

How much leave can I use under FMLA?

The duration of leave will be based on the certification.

Employees may not use more than 12 weeks of FMLA leave for the following reasons:

  • The birth of a son or daughter of the employee and the care of such son or daughter
  • The placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care
  • The care of a spouse, son or daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition
  • A serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her position
  • A qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the spouse, or a son or daughter, or parent of the employee is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the armed forces

Employees may use up to 26 weeks of military caregiver leave. If you think you may be eligible to use military caregiver leaver, reach out to your HR Benefits contact.  They will help you determine your eligibility.

What is the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP)?

The Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP) allows an employee to donate annual leave directly to another employee who has a personal or family medical emergency.

Is FMLA leave granted as a continuous block or can there be intermittent usage?

FMLA allows employees to take leave on an intermittent basis or to work a reduced schedule.  See additional information for episodic requests for leave under intermittent usage of FMLA leave. Contact your servicing Employee/Labor Relations Specialist with any additional questions.

Who is considered a family member for Leave Bank purposes?

A family member means an individual with any of the following relationships to the employee:

  • Spouse, and parents thereof;
  • Sons and daughters, and spouses thereof;
  • Parents, and spouses thereof;
  • Grandparents and grandchildren, and spouses thereof;
  • Domestic partner and parents thereof, including domestic parents of any individual in 2 through 5 of this definition; and
  • Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.
Do federal holidays count toward the entitled FMLA (12 weeks) leave time?

FMLA leave may be charged only on days on which an employee is scheduled to be in a duty status. Any holidays authorized under 5 U.S.C. 6103 or by Executive order and non -workdays established by Federal statute, Executive order, or administrative order that occur during the period in which the employee is on FMLA leave will not be counted toward the 12 -week entitlement to family and medical leave.

What happens to my Leave Bank membership if I resign, retire, or transfer, etc.?

Membership is automatically cancelled when an employee resigns, retires, transfers to another Federal agency, or dies. The cancellation is effective on the date of the action. There is no refund of the membership contribution or leave donation.

How do I request FMLA leave?

If you need to use FMLA leave, notify your leave approving official of the intent to use FMLA. Then, you must submit certification paperwork as requested by the agency.  Contact your administrative officer/timekeeper to arrange the leave details for timekeeping purposes.

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