Employee Frequently Asked Questions - Leave and Benefits

No. All paid time off during a shutdown furlough is cancelled for excepted employees. There is no provision in the law which allows for the retroactive posting of an employee's paid leave once a shutdown ends and normal operations resume. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019 guarantees to pay federal employees for furlough hours previously posted; therefore, employees' time and attendance records will be changed from government-wide shutdown furlough to admin leave to pay employees, which leaves employees' balances for paid leave (e.g., annual leave, sick leave) remain intact.

PTSP work is not deemed as an excepted activity. Therefore, no new PTSP applications are being processed during the shutdown.

​Yes, changes to or selection of health insurance during health insurance open season were effective 1/6/2019. Your coverage will continue uninterrupted throughout the shutdown. You do not need to take any additional steps for coverage to continue.

​Yes, if you signed up for FEDVIP dental and vision insurance during open season it would be effective 1/6/2019.  After you have experienced two pay periods of non-pay, you will receive a bill for the missed premiums directly from Benefeds that you need to pay directly to them.

As stated in the previous FAQ, at 80 hours of non-pay time, employee leave accruals are cutback. On January 16, 2019, the President authorized back pay for employees when the shutdown ends. Therefore, employees' hours will be changed from service wide furlough to administrative leave, placing employees in a pay status. Full-time employees earn leave during each full biweekly pay period while in pay status or in a combination of pay and non-pay status. (Part time employees earn leave on a prorated basis) IRM 6.630.1.2. Based on this information, employees' leave accruals should be adjusted to reflect the change in SETR records. 

Please be advised that until the shutdown is complete, only exempt employees will have their leave accruals on the Statement of Earnings and Leave (SEL), but after the Service-wide furlough time is corrected to administrative leave, then all employees that are due accruals will see the adjustment to their leave balances. Seasonal employees who were on their regular furlough will not have that time changed to admin leave and will not receive accruals if they hit their 80-hour non-pay cutback.

Participants should use the debit card to purchase transit fares for commuting expenses in February.

Permanent employees who return to work and are enrolled in PTSP, will have funding on their TRANServe cards, for the commuting month of February. If participants use public transportation to commute to work in January, they should use personal funds to pay for the transit fare. Participants should only purchase daily passes or tickets. Participants should not purchase a pass for January.

Seasonal Employees who return to work in January will need to go through OS GetServices, and create a ticket to release the “hold” on their TRANServe card. In the comments area of the ticket, please state, “Remove the Hold from the TRANServe debit card.” Once the shutdown is over, these tickets will be worked in the order they were received.  If participants use public transportation to commute to work in January, they should use personal funds to pay for the transit fare. Participants should only purchase daily passes or tickets. Participants should not purchase a pass for January.

Cash Reimbursements may be available for PTSP participants who did not use any January benefits which were loaded on 12/10/2018 for the January commute and used personal funds for public transportation. Any claim for a cash reimbursement will require managerial approval. Cash Reimbursements will be processed in April 2019.

All employees, non-excepted, excepted or exempt, will be able to carry over their “use-or-lose” annual leave into 2019, as long as the days off were scheduled prior to the shutdown. See the Office of Personnel Management memo for complete details.

The PTSP benefits are being distributed to all approved participants.
If participants use public transportation to commute to work in January, they should use personal funds to pay for the transit fare. Participants should only purchase daily passes or tickets and not purchase a pass for January. Cash Reimbursements may be available for PTSP participants who did not use any January benefits, which were loaded on 12/10/2018, for the January commute and used personal funds for public transportation.  Any claim for a cash reimbursement will require managerial approval. Cash Reimbursements will be processed in April 2019.

Yes, employees do accrue leave until they have reached 80 hours of non-pay time. At 80 hours of non-pay time, employee leave accruals are cutback. 

Excepted employees are not eligible to take any kind of paid time off (e.g., annual leave, sick leave, compensatory time off, credit hours, or excused absence). In addition, excepted employees may not be placed in leave without pay status. However, if an excepted employee needs to be absent from work for brief or intermittent periods, agencies are encouraged to explore the use of workplace flexibilities such as alternative work schedules and telework (subject to applicable laws, regulations, agency policies, and collective bargaining agreements) to accommodate this employee's need to be absent. If use of workplace flexibilities is not appropriate for your situation, excepted employees must be furloughed for any brief intermittent unpaid absence. These brief intermittent unpaid absences must be documented by a shutdown furlough notice with applicable appeal rights.

The Executive Order preceded the shutdown. Per the Office of Personnel Management guidance for shutdown furloughs, "During a shutdown, all paid time off during a shutdown furlough period must be canceled because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights. The Antideficiency Act does not allow authorization of any expenditure or obligation before an appropriation is made, unless authorized by law."  As such, 12/24 and 12/25 will post as furlough days.

Individual situations should be discussed with your manager. When a lapse in appropriations occurs, all leave is cancelled and non-essential employees are placed in furlough status. However, there are situations in which intermittent unpaid absences from work can be granted to excepted employees (see the Office of Personnel Management's guidance for shutdown furloughs). For those situations, excepted employees must be temporarily placed in furlough status.

​Employees and managers may not change their TOD or regular day off (including an AWS day) once the pay period has already begun. All changes to employees’ tours of duty must be made prior to the beginning of the pay period.

No. All paid time off during a shutdown furlough period must be cancelled because the requirements to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights. The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341 et se.) does not allow authorization of any expenditure or obligation before an appropriation is made, unless authorized by law. Paid time off creates a debt to the Government that is not authorized by the Act. Therefore, agencies are instructed that during a shutdown furlough, all paid time off must be cancelled.

No. When an excepted employee is not working or not performing excepted activities in compliance with the Antideficiency Act, he or she cannot be in a pay status. Excepted employees must be either performing excepted activities or furloughed during any absence from work. The furlough must be documented by a furlough notice. If an excepted employee refuses to report for work after being ordered to do so, he or she will be considered to be absent without leave (AWOL) and will be subject to any consequences that may follow from being AWOL.

No, an employee who is not exempt or excepted may not work during the furlough period, even to accrue religious compensatory time. However, an excepted employee may work additional hours for religious purposes if the employee is performing excepted activities, though the employee may not use those hours until after the lapse in appropriations is over.

It depends. If the employee is not expected to work during the furlough period (e.g., a one-year period of leave without pay to accompany a military spouse overseas), then agencies are not required to provide the employee with a furlough notice. If, however, the employee is scheduled to return from unpaid leave to Federal service during the furlough period, the employee should be provided with a furlough notice (effective on the date of scheduled return), unless the employee is expected to be at work performing an excepted activity.

It depends. If the employee is not expected to work during the furlough period (e.g., an employee who has just given birth and has requested 12 weeks of unpaid leave (leave without pay (LWOP)) under the FMLA), the agency is not required to provide the employee with a furlough notice. If, however, the employee is scheduled to return from LWOP to Federal service during the furlough period, the employee should be provided with a furlough notice (effective on the date of scheduled return), unless the employee is expected to be at work performing an excepted activity. An employee on LWOP under FMLA during a shutdown furlough may not later substitute paid time off for the days of LWOP.
 

Yes. A non-exempt employee must be placed in furlough status during any paid time off scheduled to be taken during a lapse in appropriations. If an employee is scheduled to take paid time off under FMLA during a shutdown furlough (either continuously or intermittently), the paid time off must be canceled and the employee must be furloughed for any period during which paid time off was scheduled. Thus, any days of scheduled paid time off are documented as furlough days. Any previously scheduled days of unpaid leave under FMLA will continue to be documented as LWOP. No days associated with a shutdown furlough period will be counted against an employee's 12-week FMLA leave entitlement.

​Yes. With agency approval, excepted employees may earn compensatory time off and/or credit hours subject to requirements found in 5 U.S.C. 5543 and 6120-6133; 5 CFR 550.114, 551.531, and part 610, subpart D; or other applicable authority. Each agency is responsible for approving the number of hours an excepted employee can work related to the performance of excepted activities. Employees will not be permitted to use earned compensatory time off or credit hours during the shutdown period.

​No. All paid leave or other paid time off is cancelled during a period when a lapse in appropriations is in effect. There is no authority to obligate funds for paid time off during a lapse in appropriations. Employees who are not exempt or excepted from the furlough are allowed to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities. Being on paid leave is not an activity necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations. Agencies should determine on a case-by-case basis whether it is necessary to require employees who had been scheduled to take paid time off to report to duty to perform orderly suspension activities.

Government Shutdown and Loan Payments — (January 8, 2019) The TSP allows for the suspension of loan payments when you go into nonpay status to prevent your loan from going into default. Normally, we require documentation from your agency or service. However, the TSP does not need documentation of your furlough at this time. If your loan payments were up to date prior to the furlough, missing one or two payments will not cause your loan to be in default. You can check the status of your loan by logging into My Account, selecting “TSP Loans,” and then selecting “Are my payments up to date?” Or you can call the ThriftLine at 1-877-968-3778 and speak to a Participant Service Representative.

As long as retroactive pay is approved, all missed loan payments will be submitted and posted to your loan. We will provide more information as the furlough continues or as events change.

Please refer to the TSP loans website for more information about obtaining and paying loans. https://www.tsp.gov/whatsnew/Content/index.html.

No. The employee is in a non-pay, non-duty status for those days/hours while on furlough. However, extended furlough may affect the calculation of creditable service for certain purposes.

Yes. The employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency doesn't make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld.

It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. State unemployment compensation requirements differ. Some States require a one-week waiting period before an individual qualifies for payments. In general, the law of the State in which an employee’s last official duty station in Federal civilian service was located will be the State law that determines eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits. (See the Department of Labor website “Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees” at Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees, Employment & Training Administration (ETA) - U.S. Department of Labor.) Agencies or employees should submit questions to the appropriate State (or District of Columbia) office. The Department of Labor’s website provides links to individual State offices at Unemployment benefits | CareerOneStop. A list of Federal Identification Codes (FIC) needed for unemployment compensation applications You may obtain your latest W-2 form and Earning and Leave statement from the National Finance Center by accessing your Employee Personal Page. If you forgot your user name or password, you may use the automated tools to request them online or by email. Employees who do not have an alternate email address established and cannot retrieve their password may contact NFC at: 1-855-632-4468 and select option #5 for EPP.

The effects of a non-pay status (which includes furlough, leave without pay, absence without leave, and suspension) on Federal employee benefits and programs vary based on current law and regulation. For additional information, see OPM’s fact sheet on the “Effect of Extended Leave Without Pay (or Other Non-pay Status) on Federal Benefits and Programs”.

Generally, there will be no effect on the high-three average pay unless the furlough causes the employee to be in a non-pay status for more than six months during the calendar year.

​The Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs which administers the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) advises that, in the event of a Government shutdown, an employee who is disabled due to his or her injury is to be maintained in COP status during the shutdown unless the agency does not have monies available to pay the salary of that employee. If the agency does not have monies to pay salary during the shutdown but the agency’s budget is subsequently restored in such a way as to allow for retroactive payment of salary during the shutdown period, the employee should receive COP for any period of disability that occurs within the shutdown. In the event an agency is legally unable to pay COP to an employee because of a lapse in appropriations, the employee may file a claim for regular FECA wage loss compensation for that period.

​No. Workers’ compensation is paid to employees only if they are injured while performing their duties. Employees on furlough or LWOP are not in a duty status for this purpose. An employee who is receiving workers' compensation payments will continue to receive workers' compensation payments during a furlough and will continue to be charged LWOP.

Yes, employees can seek assistance from the EAP during the lapse in appropriations. These services are available. Services are available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day by calling toll-free 1-800-977-7631 (TDD: 800-697-0353 or by visiting www.Guidanceresources.com. First-time users will need to enter their IRS Company ID, IRS112, when prompted. All services are provided by ComPsych, Corporation.

The EAP is a free benefit program for all IRS managers, employees and their immediate family members. The EAP provides free confidential counseling services to managers, employees and members of their household who are dealing with personal and/or work-related problems.

This no-cost counseling service helps you address stress, relationship and other personal issues you and your family may face. It is staffed by EAP consultants highly trained masters and doctoral level clinicians who will listen to your concerns and quickly refer you to in-person counseling and other resources for:

Stress, anxiety and depression
Relationship/marital conflicts
Problems with children
Job pressures
Grief and loss
Substance abuse

Financial Help from EAP
Financial issues can arise at anytime, from dealing with debt to saving for college. EAP financial professionals are available to discuss your concerns and provide you with the tools and information you need to address your finances.

All services are completely confidential and cost free to you.
All IRS employees and their immediate family members can use the program services.