A furlough is the placement of an employee in a temporary status without service, without pay due to lack of work or funds, or other non-disciplinary reasons. There are two main types of federal government leave – “stop” or “emergency” leave and “money saving” leave.

In a “close” leave, the agency no longer has the necessary funds to operate and must stop activities that are not excepted by the standards of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In many cases, the agency will have very little time to plan the leave, making it an “emergency” leave. An example of a “shutdown” or “emergency” leave is if there are no funds allocated to an agency at the start of a new fiscal year.

A “to save money“The furlough is an event planned by an agency that is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any other event that requires the agency to save money. A “money-saving” leave is generally a “non-emergency” leave as long as the agency has enough time to reduce expenses and therefore give sufficient notice of its specific leave plan and the number of days of leave that will be required An example of a “money saving” leave would be when, as a result of congressional budget decisions, an agency is required to make spending cuts during a fiscal year.

Rights of federal employees in the event of an emergency or furlough leave

During a period of “closure”, the agency no longer has the funds necessary to operate and must close activities that are not excluded by the standards of the Office of Management and Budget. In many cases, the agency will have very little time to plan the leave, making it an “emergency” leave. An example of a “shutdown” or “emergency” leave is if there are no funds allocated to an agency at the start of a new fiscal year.

See guidance at: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-shutdown-furloughs.pdf

To note: Many readers have asked if agencies should start following RIF procedures after 31 days of continuous leave during an emergency shutdown like the one from December 22, 2018 to January 25, 2019. The answer is no. See https://ask.fedweek.com/forum/does-the-current-shutdown-rif-in-23-or-31-days/ for details.

Federal employee rights in saving money

For most employees, there are two basic categories of “saved” leave, each involving different procedures. A leave of 30 calendar days or less is covered by the adverse action procedures. Leave of more than 30 calendar days is covered by downsizing procedures.

Agencies must follow RIF procedures when laying off employees for 31 or more continuous calendar days, or for 23 or more non-continuous work days. Full RIF procedures must be followed, including specific written notice of at least 60 days of the RIF leave action.

An employee reached to be released from competitive level due to RIF leave has assignment rights to other positions on the same basis as an employee reached to be released as a result of other RIF actions.

For a leave of 30 calendar days or less, the law provides the following rights: written notice of at least 30 calendar days by the agency stating the specific reasons for the proposed action; at least seven calendar days for the employee to respond orally and in writing to the notice of proposal and provide supporting documents in support of his response; the employee’s right to be represented by a lawyer or other representative; a written decision from the agency with the specific reasons for its action as soon as possible; and the right to appeal the agency’s action to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Even on leave, an individual is a government employee. Therefore, the Standards of Ethical Conduct, which include rules on outside employment, continue to apply to furloughed employees. In addition, there are laws that prohibit certain outside activities.

Federal benefits and holidays

* The following generally applies to Emergency/Stop Leave, as well as Economy Leave:

For employees who invest based on a percentage of salary (but not based on a dollar amount), the individual investment in the Thrift Savings Plan will decrease during a pay period when on unpaid leave. paid, unless the employee changes the deduction. For Federal Employees Retirement System employees, the automatic employer contribution of 1% of salary will be based on the actual salary received, and matching contributions of up to an additional 4% of salary are also based on the actual amount that the employee receives. individual actually invests.

Financial difficulty withdrawals in service are permitted, although they come with restrictions such as a six-month suspension from further investment. If the leave is less than 31 days, a loan may be taken out, but a loan must be repaid on time, failing which a taxable distribution will be declared, subject to possible penalties.

For health benefits, registration continues for up to 365 days in a non-paying status. Unpaid status can be continuous or interrupted by periods of less than four consecutive months in paid status. The government contribution continues while employees are on non-wage status. The government is also responsible for advancing the salary of the employees. The employee can choose between paying the agency directly on a current basis or having the bonuses accumulate and be deducted from their salary when they return to work.

For life insurance, coverage continues for 12 consecutive months in unpaid status at no cost to employees or the agency. Unpaid status can be continuous or it can be interrupted by returning to work for periods of less than four consecutive months.

For annual leave and sick leavewhen a full-time employee accumulates 80 hours of unpaid leave, the amount of vacation and sick leave that may be accumulated in that pay period is reduced by the amount of leave the employee would normally accumulate in that pay period. the pay period.

For calculation of retirement benefits purposes, a comprehensive six-month non-pay status in a calendar year is a commendable service. Coverage continues at no cost for employees on non-wage status. When employees are off pay for only part of a pay period, their contributions are adjusted in proportion to their base salary. Similarly, a leave of less than six months does not affect the high wage rate 3 used in the calculation.

Employees may be eligible for Unemployment benefits, especially if they are on consecutive holidays. State unemployment compensation requirements differ; many require a waiting period before benefits can begin. Also, in general, if an employee is subsequently paid retroactively for time off, the employee will have to reimburse the state for any unemployment benefits received.

Employees can generally take outside employment, although they remain subject to ethical restrictions on conflicts of interest.

Detailed policies on these and other issues are available at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance. Individual agencies issue specific policies on certain aspects, such as planning.

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