Table of Contents
This Guide provides National Institutes of Health (NIH) employees, as well as leave approving officials (LAOs), basic regulatory and policy guidance on the various leave programs available to civilian employees. It is not a substitute for any Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or NIH regulations that are more comprehensive.
More specific guidance may be obtained by contacting your Administrative Officer, as well as reviewing the references used in preparation of this Guide.
Questions regarding this Guide should be directed to your Administrative Officer.
Absence without Leave (AWOL)
- A non-pay status for an absence from duty not authorized by the proper leave approving official.
- Leave earned by an employee during the current leave year that is unused at any given time in that leave year.
- Unused leave remaining to the credit of an employee at the beginning of a leave year.
- A disease that is ruled as subject to quarantine, requires isolation of the patient, or requires restriction of movement by the patient or requires restriction of contact by the patient for a specified period, as prescribed by a physician or state or county public health authorities having jurisdiction. This also includes any situation where such limitation on the patient's freedom of contact prohibits attendance at work, school, or daycare. Childhood diseases such as measles or chicken pox that require isolation meet this definition.
- For entitlements under the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program, the Voluntary Leave Bank, Sick Leave for Family Care and Bereavement [formerly known as Federal Employees Family Friendly Leave Act (FEFFLA)], and sick leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, family member is defined as a spouse (a partner in any legally recognized marriage regardless of the employee’s state of residence, as well as common law marriage in states where such marriages are recognized), and parents thereof; children (including adopted or foster children, stepchildren, or a legal ward), and spouses or domestic partners thereof; parents, and spouses or domestic partners thereof; brothers and sisters, and spouses or domestic partners thereof; grandparents and grandchildren, and spouses or domestic partners thereof; and any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.
- For entitlements under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), family member is defined as spouse (a partner in any legally recognized marriage regardless of the employee’s state of residence, as well as common law marriage in states where such marriages are recognized); son or daughter (including adopted or foster children, stepchildren, or a legal ward); or parent. Note that the term “spouse” does not include unmarried domestic partners, unless they meet the requirements of being spouses in a common-law marriage in states where such marriages are recognized.
Health Care Provider
- A licensed Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy or a physician who is serving on active duty in the uniformed services and is designated by the uniform service to conduct examinations; any provider recognized by the Federal Employees' Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) or who is licensed or certified under Federal or State law to provide the service in question; a Federal or State licensed or certified provider, recognized by FEHBP who practices in a foreign country; a Native American traditional healing practitioner; or a Christian Science practitioner listed with the First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.
- The inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities because of a serious health condition or treatment for or recovery from a serious health condition.
Leave Approving Official (LAO)
- Officials of NIH who have been delegated authority to act on employee requests (usually the immediate supervisor).
Leave Without Pay (LWOP)
- Approved leave for which the employee is not paid and which the employee requests. Except where specifically authorized by law or as a matter of right, granting of leave without pay is a matter of supervisory discretion. The fact that it is an approved absence distinguishes it from AWOL, which is an unauthorized absence and may serve as a cause for disciplinary action.
- The period beginning with the first day of the first complete pay period in a calendar year and ending with the day immediately before the first day of the first complete pay period in the following calendar year.
- A written statement signed by a health care provider which is sufficiently specific for the LAO to make a reasonable decision concerning whether or not the employee was incapacitated to perform the duties of his/her position and/or was receiving necessary medical treatment. Requirements for medical documentation may vary dependent upon individual circumstances and the category of leave which the employee requests.
Serious Health Condition
- An illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves:
- Inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility, including any period of incapacity or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care; or
- Continuing treatment by a health care provider that includes, but is not limited to, examinations to determine if there is a serious health condition and evaluations of such conditions if the examinations or evaluations determine that a serious health condition exists.
- Continuing treatment by a health care provider may include one or more of the following:
- Any period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days, including any subsequent treatment or period of incapacity relating to the same condition, that also involves:
- Treatment two or more times by (or under the supervision of) a health care provider; or
- Treatment by (or under the supervision of) a health care provider on at least one occasion that results in a regimen of continuing treatment.
- Any period of incapacity due to pregnancy or for prenatal care.
- Any period of incapacity or treatment for such incapacity due to a chronic serious health condition that:
- Requires periodic visits for treatment by a health care provider;
- Continues over an extended period of time (including recurring episodes of a single underlying condition); and
- May cause episodic rather than a continuing period of incapacity; e.g., asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy.
- A period of incapacity that is permanent or long-term due to a condition for which treatment may not be effective; e.g., Alzheimer's, severe stroke, or terminal stages of a disease.
- Any period of absence to receive multiple treatments (including any period of recovery) from a health care provider either for restorative surgery after an accident or other injury or for a condition that would likely result in a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive calendar days in the absence of medical intervention or treatment; e.g., chemotherapy/radiation for cancer, physical therapy for severe arthritis, or dialysis for kidney disease.
- Other examples of a serious health condition include heart attacks, heart conditions involving bypass or valve operations, most cancers, back conditions requiring extensive therapy or surgery, severe respiratory conditions, spinal injuries, appendicitis, pneumonia, emphysema, severe arthritis, severe nervous disorders, injuries caused by serious accidents on or off the job, pregnancy, miscarriages, complications or illnesses related to pregnancy (e.g., severe morning sickness), the need for prenatal care, childbirth, and recovery from childbirth.
- Examples of conditions not considered a serious health condition include routine physical, eye, or dental examinations; conditions where over-the-counter medicines and/or bed rest are initiated without a visit to a health care provider; voluntary or cosmetic treatments that are not medically necessary; and surgical procedures that typically do not involve hospitalization and require only a brief recovery period.
- In addition, the common cold, flu, earaches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, headaches (other than migraines), allergies, restorative dental or plastic surgery after an injury, or mental illness resulting from stress are not considered serious health conditions unless complications develop or if such conditions require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider.
Charges to Leave
- The minimum charge for annual leave, sick leave, or LWOP is one-quarter (1/4) hour and additional leave is charged in multiples of 1/4 hour. Annual leave, however, may only be donated, under the provision of the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program, in increments of one hour.
- Leave is charged only on those days the employee would otherwise work and receive pay. Employees who are in a non-pay status (LWOP or AWOL) immediately before and after a holiday will not be placed in a pay status on the holiday.
- If an employee is unavoidably absent or tardy for less than 60 minutes, for a reason that is acceptable to the LAO, he or she may be excused without charge to leave. However, the official may decide not to excuse the absence, and may charge the employee AWOL or may approve a request for leave.
- An employee may not be required to perform work during those periods of tardiness or unauthorized absence from duty for which the employee is charged with leave or AWOL. [Example: An employee reports to work 35 minutes late and is charged 3/4 hour of annual leave, sick leave, LWOP, or AWOL; the employee cannot be required to perform work until that 3/4 hour is concluded.]
- An employee participating in NIH Medical Research Studies may request annual leave or LWOP if monetary compensation is offered and accepted. Sick leave, annual leave, or LWOP may be requested if, from participation in the protocol, the employee gains medical benefits. Excused absence may be requested if the employee receives no money and gains no medical benefit from participation in the study.
- If the Federal Government is operating under an "delayed arrival" due to inclement weather conditions, an employee will not be charged leave for the designated number of hours past their normal arrival time. If the policy for the day is "unscheduled leave," a non-emergency employee may take annual leave or LWOP without receiving advance approval from his/her LAO. However, the employee must call and notify the LAO of his/her intention as soon as possible. Additional information regarding temporary closing of the workplace may be obtained from your Administrative officer.
General Provisions - Approval of Annual and Sick Leave
- An employee serving under an appointment with a definite time limitation cannot be granted leave greater than the amount that can be earned and before the appointment expires or the end of the leave year, whichever is sooner.
- An employee whose appointment is scheduled for 90 calendar days or more may use annual leave and sick leave during the first 90 days of employment (beginning with the first day of the first pay period following his/her appointment) and may also request LWOP. If an appointment is scheduled for less than 90 calendar days, an employee is not entitled to earn annual leave until after being employed for a continuous period of 90 days under successive appointments without a break in service. As soon as an employee has 90 days of employment, he/she earns annual leave retroactive to the initial appointment date.
- If an employee takes LWOP under an appointment of less than 90 days and then earns annual leave retroactive to his/her initial appointment date, that annual leave may not be substituted for the LWOP that was already taken.
- An employee who has not been approved for advanced annual or sick leave and has an insufficient balance of leave to cover an approved period of absence may not later substitute accrued leave for LWOP taken earlier.
Mandatory Approval of Leave Requests
If proper leave-requesting procedures have been followed and acceptable evidence has been provided, an employee must be granted annual and/or sick leave or LWOP, consistent with current law and regulations governing the granting and use of annual leave, sick leave, and LWOP in the following cases:
- When invoking LWOP or a substitution of paid sick and/or annual leave under the FMLA;
- When requesting sick leave under the FFLA to care for a family member or make arrangements for or to attend the funeral of a family member;
- When requesting accrued sick leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition;
- When requesting paid leave for bone marrow or organ donation;
- When requesting sick leave for the purpose of adoption;
- For medical treatment of disabled veterans;
- For a military order of call to active duty; or
- When the employee has suffered an incapacitating job-related injury and is awaiting adjudication of a claim for benefits under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.
This requirement does not apply to a request of advance sick or annual leave.
- Ensure that all employees under their supervision are informed of the procedures they must follow for requesting and using leave.
- Ensure that absences from duty are appropriately charged according to applicable laws and regulations.
- Ensure early in the leave year that employees are aware that annual leave should be scheduled for use to avoid situations where employees approach the end of the year with significant amounts of leave to be used or forfeited, and to ensure adequate staff coverage to meet operating needs.
- Notify employees that they must submit leave requests before the start of the third pay period before the end of the leave year each year, in order to avoid forfeiture of Use or Lose annual leave.
- Plan, apply for, and obtain approval in advance for all anticipated leave.
- Unless instructed otherwise by the LAO, when absent for an unanticipated reason, notify the LAO within the first hour after being scheduled to report for duty, or first hour of core time if under a flexible work schedule.
- Request all leave through a leave-requesting vehicle (in writing, ITAS, etc.) approved by the IC.
- Provide appropriate medical documentation as requested by the LAO.
Amount of Annual Leave Earned
The amount of annual leave employees earn depends on their length of Federal service and the number of hours in their scheduled tour of duty. Employees are assigned to leave earning categories and earn leave as follows (based on a full-time, 80-hour tour):
- Employees with less than three years of Federal service earn four hours of annual leave each pay period.
- Employees with at least three, but less than 15, years of Federal service earn six hours of annual leave each pay period.
- Employees with 15 or more years of Federal service earn eight hours of annual leave each pay period.
- Based on a full-time, 80-hour tour, an employee in the four-hour category will earn 104 hours of leave each year; an employee in the six-hour category will earn 160 hours of leave each year; and an employee in the eight-hour category will earn 208 hours of leave each year.
- Part-time employees accrue leave on a prorated basis. Employees in the four-hour category earn one hour for every 20 hours worked; employees in the six-hour category earn one hour for every 13 hours worked; and employees in the eight-hour category earn one hour for every ten hours worked.
- Student interns on temporary appointments of 90 days or more are eligible to earn annual leave.
- Annual leave becomes available for use at the beginning of the pay period in which it is earned, provided the employee does not separate before the end of the pay period.
- An employee who begins employment after the pay period begins (Sunday) or separates before the end of a pay period (Saturday) does not earn leave for that pay period, unless he/she comes on board the day after a holiday or transfers from another agency, with no break in service.
- A change in accrual rate takes effect at the beginning of the pay period after the pay period an employee completes the required period of service
Approval of Annual Leave
- The LAO grants annual leave to allow employees time off for vacations, personal reasons, and emergency purposes. In addition, an employee participating in an NIH biomedical research study for which compensation is offered and accepted may request annual leave.
- The LAO makes the final determination as to the scheduling and the amount of annual leave granted at any specific time. An exception to this is if the employee is requesting to substitute annual leave for LWOP after invoking his/her entitlement under FMLA. Denials of leave will be based upon factors that are reasonable, equitable, and non-discriminating.
- Except in cases of emergency, annual leave must be requested by the employee and approved by the LAO in advance of the absence.
- The employee's desires and personal convenience as well as the work schedule are to be considered when granting leave. Employees may be placed on annual leave as the needs of the service require (during a period of reduced or suspended operations or where an employee is instructed to take vacation at a time other than at the specific time initially requested).
- Requiring the use of annual leave must be based on factors that are reasonable and equitable, which do not discriminate among employees, and which are not arbitrary.
- LAOs must not make arbitrary decisions to deny leave.
Maximum Annual Leave Accumulation
- A maximum of 240 hours may be carried over from one leave year to another; Senior Executive Service employees may carry over 720 hours; under other specific circumstances, some employees may carry over amounts larger than 240.
Restoration of Annual Leave
Any leave to the employee's credit at the end of the leave year that exceeds the maximum accumulation is subject to forfeiture. However, leave that is forfeited may be restored under certain circumstances. To be considered for restoration, the leave must have been:
- Forfeited because of a documented illness or injury preventing rescheduling and use during the remainder of the leave year;
- Forfeited due to administrative error; or
- Forfeited due to an exigency of public business (when the demands or needs of an organization are of such importance that the employee cannot be released from duty and previously approved leave is canceled). This leave must be documented and approved in writing by the official designated by each IC in order to be the basis for restoration, and
- Requested and approved in writing before the start of the third biweekly pay period prior to the end of the leave year.
- An employee approved for restoration may use the restored leave in any order he/she wishes; i.e., before or after any accrued leave. However, leave that has been restored must be used by the end of the leave year in which the two-year anniversary occurs.
- Restored leave may be donated to an approved leave recipient under the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program.
- Consult your Administrative Officer prior to cancellation of approved leave that exceeds the 240-hour carry over amount for more information.
Advancing Annual Leave
- An employee has no entitlement to advance annual leave.
- Annual leave must not be advanced when it is likely the employee will retire, be separated, or resign before earning the leave to repay the advance.
- An employee may be granted advance annual leave up to the amount to be earned by the end of the appointment or the end of the current leave year, whichever is sooner.
- An employee who is separated while indebted for advance annual leave must refund the amount due or have the amount used deducted from any monies due to the employee.
Who Approves Advance Annual Leave
- Officials with sufficient knowledge and expertise to exercise this authority in accordance with law, regulation and written policy, designated by each IC; normally the employee's LAO.
Use of Annual Leave During Active Military Duty
- Use of annual leave for military duty may be approved only after military leave has been exhausted (see Military Leave in this Guide).
- Decisions to approve or disapprove requests for advanced annual leave should be coordinated with the Administrative Officer to ensure consistent application of policies within the IC.
Substitution of Annual Leave for Sick Leave
- Annual leave may be applied to retroactively liquidate an advance of sick leave. However, it must not be applied retroactively for regular sick leave.
- Annual leave may be substituted for sick leave for a period of extended illness for which the employee does not have sufficient sick leave to his or her credit (including for maternity purposes).
Amount of Sick Leave Earned
- All full-time employees earn four hours of sick leave every pay period. Part-time employees earn sick leave on a prorated basis - one hour for every 20 hours worked.
Sick Leave is Allowed
- When the employee is incapacitated for performance of duties by physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth.
- When the employee receives medical, dental, or optical examinations or treatment, including periodic physical examinations for retention of status in the Reserve or National Guard.
- When the employee participates in drug or alcohol counseling or rehabilitation programs.
- When participating in an NIH biomedical research study from which the employee gains medical benefits.
- When the employee provides care for a family member as a result of physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, childbirth, or medical, dental, or optical examinations or treatment, under restrictions of the FFLA (a maximum of 104 hours of accrued sick leave each leave year).
- When the employee makes arrangements for or attends the funeral of a family member under the restrictions of the FFLA (a maximum of 104 hours of accrued sick leave each leave year).
- When the employee provides care for a family member suffering from a serious medical condition (a maximum of 480 hours of accrued sick leave each leave year).
- When an employee, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, would jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a contagious disease.
- When the employee must be absent from duty for purposes relating to the adoption of a child, including appointments with adoption agencies, social workers, and attorneys, court proceedings, required travel, and any other activities necessary to allow the adoption to proceed.
When Sick Leave Becomes Available
- Sick leave is not available for use until after it is earned. However, an employee with a zero sick leave balance may, at the discretion of the LAO, be advanced sick leave during the pay period. At the end of the pay period, the sick leave earned will automatically be applied toward the liquidation of the advance sick leave.
- This is no limitation on the amount of sick leave that may be carried forward from one year to another.
- Student interns on temporary appointments of 90 days or more are eligible to earn sick leave.
When Sick Leave is Requested
- Sick leave for prearranged medical appointments (including dental or optical examinations or treatment and drug and alcohol counseling sessions) or care of a family member must be requested in advance of the absence.
- Emergency requests for sick leave for absence because of illness, injury, exposure to contagious disease, care of a family member under the FFLA, care of a family member with a serious health condition, or other circumstances of incapacity which are not known in advance must be requested as soon as possible after the beginning of the absence (normally within the first hour after being scheduled to report for duty), unless otherwise instructed by the LAO.
- Ordinarily, absences of three days or less for which sick leave is requested do not require medical documentation unless the LAO has otherwise advised the employee.
Absences of More Than Three Days
- Sick leave of more than three consecutive workdays (or shorter periods if instructed by the LAO) because of an employee's personal illness may require medical documentation.
- Any medical documentation required must be signed by a health care provider, and must be sufficiently specific for the LAO to make a reasonable decision concerning whether or not the employee was incapacitated to perform the duties of his/her position and/or was receiving medical treatment. It must specifically identify the dates of the incapacitation and/or treatment and, if appropriate, provide an estimated date of full or partial recovery. More specific requirements for medical documentation may be imposed by the LAO, as appropriate.
- Employees must submit required documentation within a reasonable amount of time after return to duty. Failure to submit required medical documentation may result in the employee's absence being charged to AWOL and may result in disciplinary action.
- In cases of extended illness, medical documentation may be periodically required to establish the employee's continued incapacity and inability to return to duty.
- If there is any doubt as to the validity or adequacy of the medical documentation presented to support a request for sick leave, an Occupational Medical Service (OMS) physician may be requested to review the documentation submitted, and more specific documentation may be requested.
- Where evidence does not justify the approval of sick leave, the absence may be charged to annual leave or LWOP with the employee's consent, or AWOL if the absence is not approved.
Return to Duty After Illness
- Employees in positions that have specific medical standards, physical requirements, or are covered by a medical evaluation program must provide medical certification of their ability to return to work after taking medical leave for their own serious health condition.
- The LAO determines what is acceptable medical certification.
- If necessary, an OMS physician may be asked for assistance in making this determination.
Substitution of Sick Leave for Annual Leave
- If illness occurs during a period of annual leave, sick leave may be substituted contingent upon submission of supporting documentation acceptable to the LAO, which may include the requirement for medical documentation.
Advancing Sick Leave
- Advance sick leave is a privilege that may be extended to employees regardless of whether the employee has annual leave. An employee, however, has no entitlement to advance sick leave.
- Advance sick leave is not a routine or standard procedure, but generally considered for serious disability, illness, incapacitation, or confinement for and after childbirth.
- Full-time permanent employees may be advanced up to 240 hours of sick leave due to a personal medical condition. For an employee holding a limited appointment, sick leave must not be advanced in excess of the sick leave to be earned during the remaining period of the appointment.
- Application for advance sick leave must be in writing and supported by medical documentation.
- LAOs are cautioned that only information necessary to make a decision may be required.
- Advance sick leave is not granted if it is considered likely that the employee will not return to duty for a sufficient period of time to repay the advanced leave; e.g., anticipated retirement or separation.
- Advance sick leave is liquidated automatically as sick leave is accrued each pay period, but repayment is not required when separation is because of death, approved disability retirement, or optional retirement or resignation, if accompanied by medical documentation supporting inability to work.
- An employee who is separated, for reasons other than the above, while indebted for advance sick leave must refund the amount due or have the amount owed deducted from any monies due to the employee. For example, the indebtedness may be charged against available annual leave, repaid from earned salary, or repaid from retirement contributions.
Who Approves Advance Sick Leave
- Officials with sufficient knowledge and expertise to exercise this authority in accordance with law, regulation and written policy, designated by each IC; normally the employee's LAO.
Sick Leave for Travel to Access Medical Care
Sick leave can be used to cover travel time to a location where a Federal employee will receive medical examination or treatment. Sick leave must be granted to an employee to receive medical examination or treatment. 5 CFR 630.401. Accessing that medical examination or treatment typically involves travel, and that travel can be covered by sick leave to the extent that the travel time occurs during the employee’s tour of duty established for leave-charging purposes. While such travel will generally be short distances—for example, to and from a local doctor’s office or hospital—an employee may find it necessary to travel longer distances, including out of state, to obtain medical care. In such instances, sick leave may be used to cover necessary travel time.
Sick leave be used to cover travel time for a Federal employee who accompanies a family member to a location where the family member will receive medical examination or treatment. Sick leave must grant to an employee to be able provide care to a “family member” (as defined in 5 CFR 630.201(b)) receiving medical examination or treatment, subject to applicable annual limits. 5 CFR 630.401(a)(3). This may include, for example, providing transportation and/or accompanying a family member to a health care provider’s office or to a hospital or other health care facility.
Parental Bereavement Leave
Parental Bereavement Leave is a new paid leave entitlement established as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022. It provides up to 2 workweeks (80 hours) of bereavement leave in connection with the death of an employee’s son or daughter. Leave may be applied retroactively to this date once all eligibility conditions have been met. In addition, leave may be used intermittently at the discretion of the supervisor.
- To be eligible for parental bereavement leave, an employee must
- have 12 months of federal service as an employee
- have a full/part-time schedule
- be on a permanent/term appointment
- (employees on temporary appointments of 1 year or less and employees on intermittent work schedules are not eligible)
- be in a status in which the employee is working or on leave (an employee with a seasonal work schedule is not eligible during the off-season when the employee is placed in nonduty/nonpay status)
- Employees with part-time, seasonal, or uncommon tours of duty will be provided a proportionally equivalent amount of leave.
- An employee may not receive more than 2 workweeks (80 hours) of bereavement leave in any 12 month period beginning on the date of the death of the son or daughter. The leave may be used intermittently with supervisory approval.
- Bereavement leave is a stand-alone paid leave entitlement that is used separately from other leave or time off an employee might use. Bereavement leave does not affect the accrual or balances of other paid leave or paid time off.
- The term “son or daughter” has the meaning given that term in the FMLA law at 5 U.S.C. 6381(6)
Leave Without Pay (LWOP)
- LWOP is a temporary, non-pay status and an authorized absence from duty that may be granted at the employee's request.
- An employee does not have to exhaust annual leave before requesting LWOP.
- LWOP is granted:
- When the employee has insufficient annual or sick leave, credit hours, or compensatory time available to cover an approved absence or for family and medical purposes under the FMLA.
- LWOP may be granted to avoid a break in service for career or career-conditional employees who are dependents of a military or Federal civilian employee who is transferred.
- LWOP cannot be imposed as a penalty, nor can an employee be required to apply for LWOP in lieu of suspension.
- The maximum LWOP that may be initially granted is 12 months. However, costs to the NIH and efficiency to the service must be considered before approving any extended period of LWOP.
- Granting LWOP is at the discretion of the LAO, except for specified situations; e.g., if requested under the FMLA.
Effects of LWOP on Employee Status
- Contributions to the employee's CSRS or FERS account cease until the employee returns to duty. The employee may not repay these lost contributions at a later date.
- Upon return to full-time, unrestricted duty, all LWOP used because of a disability due to an on-the-job injury or occupational illness is creditable service for protecting an employee's status and benefits, provided a claim was filed with and approved by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP).
- Excess LWOP extends the waiting period for the next scheduled within grade increase for each year of the required waiting period; i.e., 80 hours of LWOP will extend the one-year waiting period for steps 1 - 4; 160 hours of LWOP will extend the two-year waiting period for steps 5 - 7; and 240 hours of LWOP will extend the three-year waiting period for steps 8 - 10.
- An employee does not receive credit for a period of LWOP exceeding six months in a calendar year when calculating length of service for annual leave category change, retirement, or seniority in Reductions in Force.
- Any time LWOP accumulates in an increment of 80 hours, the employee does not earn annual or sick leave in that pay period.
- LWOP for more than a year causes termination of life insurance; however, an employee may convert to a private group plan.
- Employees must pay their portion of health benefits coverage for any period when earned salary is not sufficient, due to LWOP, to cover the payment. However, when an employee is on LWOP and receiving wage-loss workers' compensation benefits, the employee's portion of the health benefits premium is deducted from the workers' compensation checks and paid by the OWCP on the employee's behalf.
- LWOP for more than a year will generally cause the health benefits to terminate.
Who Approves LWOP
- Officials designated by each IC.
A request for an extension of LWOP exceeding 12 months may require higher-level approvals within your IC. Consult your Administrative Officer for assistance. An extension beyond one year may be approved only when it is in the interest of the Federal service, or when it is determined that, because of unusual circumstances, the employee would be subjected to undue hardship if the extension were denied.
Military leave is authorized absence of an employee from official duty to perform full-time active military duty, active or inactive duty for training (excluding weekend duty), or law enforcement. Military leave is prorated for part-time career employees and employees on an uncommon tour of duty. An employee may be granted up to 15 calendar days a fiscal year (Oct. 1 through Sept. 30) for active duty, active duty training, and inactive duty training with the National Guard or an Armed Forces Reserve Unit. The employee will submit a copy of the orders and evidence that the duty was performed. Non-workdays falling within a period of absence (holidays or weekends) are NOT charged against the 15-day maximum.
Unused portions of the 15 calendar days of military duty may be carried over from one year to the next. However, a maximum of 15 days may be carried over.
An additional 22 workdays a year may be granted when an employee is ordered to perform military duty to provide military aid to enforce the law or protect life and property, or if called to active duty in support of a contingency operation.
Unlimited military leave is provided to members of the National Guard of the District of Columbia for certain types of duty ordered or authorized under Title 10 of the District of Columbia Code.
Employees entitled to military leave meet the following criteria:
- Be a member of a Reserve or National Guard component.
- Have a full-time or part-time (16 - 32 hours a week tour of duty) permanent appointment
- Present official military orders, ordering or calling the Reservist or National Guard member to duty.
- Temporary appointments with a one-year not-to-exceed date are not eligible for military leave (includes initial or subsequent one-year appointments).
- Any appointment that has an intermittent tour of duty is not eligible.
- Employees ineligible for military leave may be allowed use of their earned annual leave for military duty.
Excused Absence for Employees Returning from Active Military Duty
Employees who have served at least 42 consecutive days of active military service are entitled to 5 days of excused absence after returning from active duty in support of the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), regardless of whether they are deployed overseas or stateside.
For multiple deployments, an employee may not be granted more than 5 days of excused absence in a 12-month period.
In most cases, the 5 days of excused absence must be granted as soon as an eligible employee reports back for Federal civilian duty and must be used for a continuous period immediately upon return.
The 5 days of excused absence are pro-rated for employees on uncommon tours of duty.
Court leave is authorized absence from duty without loss of pay or charge to annual leave to perform jury duty in a Federal, state, or municipal court or to serve as a witness in a judicial proceeding in which the United States, the District of Columbia, or state or local government is a party.
- This includes absence during periods of regularly scheduled overtime as well as absence during the employee's basic workweek.
- For the purpose of court leave, a military court is considered the same as a Federal court.
- A permanent or temporary employee with a regularly scheduled tour of duty (part-time or full-time) is eligible.
- Employees serving on an intermittent or when-actually-employed basis are not eligible for court leave.
- Court leave can be granted only for those days and hours the employee would otherwise be in a pay status.
- An employee cannot be granted court leave for jury or witness duty performed within a period of non-pay status (LWOP or AWOL).
- Employees serving as witnesses in a court action between private individuals or companies in which the United States, the District of Columbia, or a state or local government is not an involved party are not eligible for court leave.
- An employee requesting court leave must provide appropriate documentation to the LAO.
Return to Duty Upon Release by Court
- An employee summoned by court or jury duty is under the jurisdiction and control of the court for the term of the court or jury service.
- The employee must return to duty during periods when he or she is excused from court or jury duty and would normally be scheduled to work, including weekends and/or holidays, unless this would be impractical.
- As a general rule, if there are two or more hours remaining in the employee's workday, exclusive of reasonable travel time, the employee should report for duty.
- If the employee fails to report for duty as directed, annual leave, LWOP, or AWOL is charged for the excess time involved.
- The employee must submit to the LAO, written evidence, of court attendance.
- Employees must reimburse to NIH any fees paid for service as a juror or witness. However, monies paid to jurors or witnesses which are in the nature of "expenses" (e.g., transportation, parking, etc.) do not have to be reimbursed.
Excused absence is time off without charge to leave or loss of pay. With the 2016 Administrative Leave Act, excused absence can be broken into four (4) categories: Administrative Leave, Weather & Safety Leave, Investigative Leave, and Notice Leave. Following is a list of circumstances when granting excused absence applies:
Administrative leave is permitted at the discretion of the supervisor when no other paid leave is available under other categories. An employee may not be paced on administrative leave for more than ten (10) total workdays (or eighty (80)) hours in any given calendar year.
- Tardiness and absences for a short period of time when there is an adequate explanation from the employee.
- Voting and voter registration in a government election. Up to 4 hours of excused absence to vote (including travel time) in each election event at the Federal, State, local. Tribal, and territorial level on the general election day (or for early voting) and up to 4 hours of excused absence (per leave year) for employees serving as a non-partisan poll worker, or to participate in non-partisan activities (including training periods) at the Federal, State, local (i.e., county and municipal), Tribal, and territorial level.
- Consultation with the Human Resource Office or EEO Office; visits to the OMS related to a job-related injury/illness; other job-related evaluations; or a job-related surveillance program.
- Participation in NIH biomedical research studies only if the employee receives no money and gains no medical benefits from participation in the study. If the employee is paid or gains personal medical benefits, sick leave, annual leave, or LWOP must be charged.
- Blood donation. Up to two hours for donation and recovery, if needed. Additional time is allowed for other procedures, such as blood platelet donations.
- Medically-supported absence on the day of a job-related injury.
- Up to four hours per day, after continuation of pay (COP) days are exhausted or when there is no entitlement to COP, for treatment of on-the-job injuries or occupational illnesses, during duty hours within six months of the date of injury or illness.
- Required physical examinations, e.g., fitness for duty, occupational health programs, or in connection with an application for disability retirement.
- Job interviews, when it is determined that this is in the Department's interest.
- Employees with fewer than 80 hours of accrued sick leave may be granted up to four hours of excused absence each year for preventive health care. Examples of preventive health care include, but are not limited to, mammography screening, pap smear, screening for prostate, cervical, colorectal, and breast cancers, sickle cell anemia, blood lead level, blood cholesterol level, immunity system disorders such as HIV, and blood sugar level testing for diabetes.
Weather & Safety Leave
Weather and Safety Leave is permitted when it is determined that employees cannot safely travel to and from, or perform work at, their normal worksite, a telework site, or other approved location because of severe weather or other emergency situations.
- When a "Delayed Arrival" policy is in place for non-emergency employees due to inclement weather conditions. The Office of Personnel Management will announce the number of hours employees are requested to arrive at work later than their normal arrival time.
- When the Federal Government is operating under an "adjusted work dismissal" policy or the workplace is closed due to inclement weather.
- When an NIH-leased facility temporarily closes due to a threat to employees' health or safety, e.g., fire, toxic fumes, or loss of those utilities provided in the building for the comfort and convenience of the occupants, e.g., power, water, heating, ventilation.
Investigative and Notice Leave
- Supervisors should partner with their employee and/or labor relations specialists for assistance with Investigative and Notice Leave
The listings above is NOT all-inclusive.; Consult your Administrative Officer Office or email WorkFlex@mail.nih.gov for additional guidance.
Bone Marrow or Organ Donor Leave
An employee may use up to 7 days of paid leave each calendar year to serve as a bone-marrow donor. An employee also may use up to 30 days of paid leave each calendar year to serve as an organ donor. Leave for bone marrow and organ donation is a separate category of leave that is in addition to annual and sick leave.
Family & Medical Leave Act of 1993
The FMLA became effective on August 3, 1993. Basic provisions of this Act are as follows:
- An employee will be granted up to a total of 12 administrative workweeks of unpaid leave (LWOP) and may elect to substitute available paid annual and/or sick leave as allowed by law or regulation during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons:
- Birth of a son or daughter of the employee and the medical care of the newborn child (within one year after birth);
- Placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care (within one year after placement);
- Care for a family member of the employee with a serious health condition; or
- A serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform any one or more of the essential functions of his or her position.
- This leave is in addition to any paid leave that is authorized and is available to both male and female employees.
- An employee must invoke his or her entitlement to leave under the FMLA and must provide medical certification of the serious health condition. An employee may not retroactively invoke entitlement to leave under the FMLA or retroactively substitute paid leave for any previous unpaid absence from work.
- An employee must provide notice of his or her intent to take family and medical leave not less than 30 days before leave is to begin or, in emergencies, as soon as is practicable.
- Employees retain their health benefits coverage during the entire period they are on FMLA.
- For additional information on family leave programs, employees should consult their Administrative Officer and/or refer to NIH Manual 2300-630-5.
Expanded Family and Medical Leave Policies
Employees may schedule and should be granted up to 24 hours of leave without pay each year (during any 12-month period) for the following purposes:
- To allow employees to participate in school activities directly related to the educational advancement of a child. This would include parent-teacher conferences or meetings with childcare providers, interviewing for a new school or childcare facility, or participating in volunteer activities supporting the child's educational advancement. For the purpose of this directive, school refers to an elementary school, secondary school, Head Start program, or a childcare facility.
- To allow parents to accompany children to routine medical or dental appointments, such as annual checkups or vaccinations. Although these activities are not currently covered by the FMLA, the FFLA does permit employees to use up to 13 days of sick leave each year for such purposes. However, employees may use up to 24 hours of LWOP each year for these purposes in cases when no additional sick leave is available to them.
- To allow employees to accompany an elderly relative (per definition of family member under the FFLA) to routine medical or dental appointments or other professional services related to the care of the elderly relative, such as making arrangements for housing, meals, phones, banking services, and other similar activities. Although employees can use unpaid leave or sick leave for certain of the activities under the FMLA or FFLA, such as caring for a parent with a serious medical condition, employees may use up to 24 hours of unpaid time off each year for this broader range of activities related to elderly relatives' health or care needs.
- LAOs may require evidence that is administratively acceptable, including medical certification, as appropriate, from an employee who requests leave under the expanded family friendly leave policies.
- Additionally, LAOs shall grant employees' requests to substitute paid time off, such as annual leave, compensatory time off, and credit hours under flexible work schedules, for these family activities when such leave is available to these employees.
Paid Parental Leave (PPL)
PPL became effective as part of the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) on Oct. 1, 2020. FEPLA amended the FMLA to allow the use of up to 12 weeks of PPL granted in connection with the birth of an employee’s child or the placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care.
- PPL applies to federal employees who meet eligibility requirements for Title 5 FMLA
- PPL is available to eligible employees only in connection with the birth or placement of a son or daughter that occurs on or after October 1, 2020 and is not effective with respect to any birth or placement (for adoption or foster care) occurring before October 1, 2020.
- An employee must invoke FMLA for the birth or placement of a son or daughter and provide advance notice to their supervisor, in writing, of their intent to substitute paid leave for FMLA unpaid leave using the PPL Request Form.
- An employee must provide appropriate documentation, verifying that his/her use of PPL is directly connected to a birth or placement that has occurred.
- Employees must sign a service agreement to work for 12 weeks after the day on which PPL concludes. Failure to complete the 12-week work obligation may require the employee to reimburse the agency for the total amount of any Government contribution paid to maintain your health insurance coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program during the period that PPL was used.
- PPL may be used no later than the end of the 12-month period beginning on the date of the birth or placement involved. At the end of that 12-month period, any unused balance of PPL granted in connection with the given birth or placement permanently expires and is not available for future use. PPL may be used intermittently within this established timeframe.
- There is no requirement to exhaust other paid leave types (e.g., annual, sick, etc.) before using PPL. Employees may request to use other types of leave to cover periods of time outside of FMLA leave periods. In addition, an employee may take unpaid FMLA leave before the birth or placement to cover certain activities related to the birth or placement but cannot substitute paid parental leave for those pre-birth/placement FMLA unpaid leave periods.
Additional information regarding PPL can be found within the PPL Quick Reference Guide or employees can contact the Workplace Flexibilities Team with any questions.
NIH Leave Bank Program
The NIH Leave Bank Program (Leave Bank or LB) enables employees to contribute annual leave or restored annual leave to a bank. The leave from this bank is made available to LB Members who are projected to go into a non-pay status of at least 24 hours because of a personal or family medical emergency.
- An employee must be a Member of the Leave Bank and meet the Recipient eligibility requirements to receive leave from the Leave Bank.
- An employee who is a Member must apply for leave from the Leave Bank. A complete Recipient Application Package must be received no later than 30 calendar days after the end of the medical emergency. All applicants are encouraged to submit the package as soon as they know about the medical emergency to avoid going into a non-pay status.
- Leave Bank leave may be substituted retroactively for periods of LWOP or to liquidate advanced annual or sick leave granted to the approved recipient to cover absences related to the medical emergency. Employees may not use advanced leave while in Recipient status due to system limitations.
- Leave recipients must exhaust all paid leave available prior to using Leave Bank leave.
- Donations to the Leave Bank may not be:
- Used beyond the approved timeframe and duration;
- Provided as a lump-sum payment;
- Designated for an employee’s supervisor;
- Designated to a specific individual when part of a membership contribution; or
- Made available for re-credit upon re-employment by a Federal agency.
For additional information regarding this program, employees should contact their IC’s Leave Bank Case Manager or visit the NIH Leave Bank Program.
Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP)
The VLTP allows a Federal employee who has a personal or family medical emergency, and is without or expected to be without available paid leave for at least 24 hours, to receive transferred annual leave directly from other Federal employees with the approval of their designated IC official.
- An employee must apply for and be approved as a leave recipient. Transferred annual leave may be substituted retroactively for periods of LWOP or to liquidate advanced annual or sick leave granted to the approved recipient to cover absences during a medical or family medical emergency.
- In order for an employee to be considered for retroactive approval for the program, the application must be submitted within thirty (30) days of the termination of the medical emergency.
- Without a waiver, an employee may not donate more than ½ of the amount of annual leave he or she would be entitled to accrue during the leave year in which the donation is made. An employee who is in the eight-hour accrual category may donate up to 104 hours; an employee in the six-hour accrual category may donate up to 80 hours; and an employee who is in the four-hour accrual category may donate up to 52 hours. This maximum applies whether the leave is donated all at one time or in increments at different times through the leave year.
- Leave recipients must exhaust all of their own annual and sick leave accumulated prior to using any transferred leave.
- An IC may deem a medical emergency to continue up to an additional thirty (30) days for the purpose of providing a leave recipient time to receive donations of leave to liquidate advanced leave or LWOP that began on or after the date fixed by the agency as the beginning of the medical emergency.
- Transferred leave may not be:
- Transferred from one leave recipient to another;
- Transferred to an immediate supervisor;
- Included in a lump-sum payment;
- Made available for re-credit upon re-employment by a Federal agency; or
- Used after the recipient's medical or family medical emergency is terminated.
For additional information regarding this program, employees should contact their Administrative Officer.
- Compensatory Time is time off from work in lieu of pay for overtime work performed.
- It may be substituted only for irregular or occasional overtime.
- There must be work for the employee to perform and the approval to earn and use compensatory time must be granted in advance and fit into the needs of an organization.
- This time must be used within 26 pay periods from the time it is earned or it will be automatically converted to pay.
- Employees will be permitted to earn, and LAOs will grant, compensatory time for family or parental reasons.
- Employees whose rate of basic pay is greater than the maximum rate for a GS-15 are excluded from earning and using compensatory time.
Compensatory Time Off for Religious Observances
- This is time off scheduled and approved by the LAO to be taken by an employee during his or her basic workweek to permit the employee to meet the requirement of his/her personal religious belief without charge to leave.
- It is earned by performing approved overtime work and requesting religious compensatory time in lieu of premium pay.
- Religious compensatory time may be earned prior to its use or used in advance of earning it. However, the work must be performed within thirteen (13) pay periods after its use or it will automatically convert to compensatory time off in lieu of regular overtime, time off awards, compensatory time off for travel, credit hours, annual leave and/or leave without pay.
- Religious compensatory time will be granted except when the adjustment of the work schedule will interfere with the efficient accomplishment of the organization's mission.
- For additional information, employees should consult their Administrative Officer and/or refer to HHS Instruction 550-11.
Compensatory Time for Travel (CTT)
CTT is a type of compensatory time off that may be earned by an employee for time spent in a travel status away from the employee's official duty station when such time is not otherwise compensable. Senior Executive Service (SES) employees, employees receiving Physicians and Dentists Pay under Title 38, Commissioned Corps Officers, and Intermittent employees are not eligible for CTT. Furthermore:
- Travel must be authorized.
- CTT may not be advanced.
- CTT is available the day it is approved, not the day it is earned.
- Employees may earn and use CTT in increments of 15 minutes.
- CTT becomes unavailable for use after 26 pay periods and never converts to pay.
- For additional information, employees should consult their Administrative Officer.
Continuation of Pay (COP) for Work Injuries
COP is a special leave category which entitles employees to have their regular pay continued with no charge to their own leave for up to 45 calendar days (including weekends, holidays, and non-workdays) of disability and/or medical treatment following a traumatic on-the-job injury.
- There is no entitlement to COP for a job-related traumatic injury if the employee does not report the injury on Form CA-1, "Federal Employee's Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation" (obtained from OMS) within 30 days after the injury.
- There is no entitlement to COP if an employee's disability is the result of an occupational disease or illness.
- COP is charged in one-day increments only, regardless of the employee's tour of duty and all periods of disability must be supported by medical documentation.
- Disability on the day of injury is charged to excused absence and COP begins with the next day or shift of disability or medical treatment.
- The first day of COP must begin within 45 days after the date of injury.
- If an employee is absent for only a portion of a day or shift, i.e., for a follow-up medical appointment or a part-time tour, a full day of COP is charged and counted against the 45-day entitlement.
- If an employee returns to work without using all 45 days of entitlement of COP, he/she may use the remaining days for a recurrence of disability provided the employee stops work within 45 days of the date of first return to work.
- Contact the OMS Compensation Office or the Administrative Officer for reasons why an LAO may deny COP. Otherwise, all employees are to initially be granted COP.
- COP may be stopped if the employee does not provide the LAO with supporting documentation within ten workdays after the employee requests COP or the disability begins, whichever is later.
Employees seeking to participate in volunteer activities during basic working hours may be granted annual leave, LWOP, or previously earned credit hours or compensatory time off. Excused absence may be granted only in very limited and unique circumstances. A request for excused absence for a volunteer activity could be approved if the request satisfied one or more of the following criteria:
- The absence is directly related to the HHS or NIH mission;
- The absence is officially sponsored or sanctioned by the Secretary of HHS or the Director of NIH;
- The absence will clearly enhance the professional development or skills of the employee in his/her position; or
- The absence is brief and is determined to be in the interest of the NIH.
- An LAO may grant funeral leave to an employee whose immediate relative dies as a result of wounds, disease, or injury incurred as a member of the Armed Forces in a combat zone. This leave may not exceed three (3) workdays.
- A Federal law enforcement officer or firefighter may be excused from duty without loss of pay or charge to leave to attend the funeral of a fellow Federal law enforcement officer or firefighter who was killed in the line of duty.
- Employees may request sick leave to attend the funeral of a family member under the restrictions of the FFLA, and annual leave or LWOP to attend other funerals.
- An employee serving abroad may accumulate up to 45 days of annual leave.
- An employee earns five, ten, or 15 days (credited in multiples of one day) of home leave for each 12 months of service abroad depending on the appointment.
- The minimum charge for home leave is one day.
- Employees are entitled to use home leave only when the employee has completed an initial continuous period of 24 months of service abroad, for use in the United States, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a territory or possession of the United States, and when the employee will return to duty abroad after using leave or upon completion of a special assignment or training in the United States.
Disabled Veteran Leave
Disabled Veteran Leave (DVL) is provided by the Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act of 2015. DVL is a new leave category available one time to a Federal employee hired on or after November 5, 2016 who is a veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 30% or more. DVL can be used for the treatment of such disability for which sick leave could regularly be used.
- For the purposes of DVL, “hired” refers to those who are:
- Newly hired with no previous Federal service; or
- Reappointed with at least a 90-day break in service; or
- Military reservists or members of the National Guard that return to duty in their civilian positions after a period of military service.
- Qualifying full-time employees will receive a DVL balance of 104 hours. Employees with part-time, seasonal, or uncommon tours of duty will be provided a proportionally equivalent amount of leave.
- Documentation of the qualifying disability from the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) is necessary to receive DVL.
- DVL will be available for one year following the “first day of employment,” which will be:
- The earliest date an employee is “hired” after the effective date of a qualifying disability OR
- The effective date of a qualifying disability.
- DVL is a separate leave category and should not be confused with an employee’s annual and sick leave accruals.
- DVL may be substituted retroactively for treatment that was received during the 12-month eligibility period in some circumstances, as long as paid leave was used to receive that treatment. For instance, if the disability rating received from the VBA has a retroactive date.
For more information about DVL, please contact your Timekeeper or Administrative Officer.
- 5 U.S.C., Chapter 63, "Leave"
- Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, Part 630, "Absence and Leave"
- OPM, "Dismissal or Closure Policies"
- HHS Instruction 630-1, "Leave and Excused Absence"
- HHS Instruction 550-1, "Premium Pay"
- HHS Instruction 550-11, "Compensatory Time Off for Religious Observances"
- Publication CA-810, "Injury Compensation for Federal Employees"
- NIH Manual 2300-630-5, "Family Leave Policies and Programs"
- NIH Manual 2300-630-3, "Leave Policy for NIH Employees Participating in Medical Research Studies"
- NIH Personnel Delegations of Authority