Sick leave is designed to allow an employee time off from work with pay for periods when they or any one of their family members are ill or are undergoing medical treatment. Specifically, sick leave is granted to employees when they:
- receive medical, dental or optical examination or treatment;
- are incapacitated for the performance of duties by physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth;
- provide care for a family member who is incapacitated as the result of physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth or who receives medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment. Number of hours an employee may use for this purpose is limited. See “Sick Leave for Family Care or Bereavement”;
- make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or attends the funeral of a family member. Number of hours an employee may use for this purpose is limited. See “Sick Leave for Family Care or Bereavement”;
- would jeopardize the health of others by their presence on the job because of exposure to a communicable disease (as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider); or,
- are required to be absent from duty for purposes related to the adoption of a child.
An OPM final rule effective June 14, 2010 amended the definition of "family member" for purposes of leave administration (excluding leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act), including sick leave under 5 CFR 630.201 (b). Family members include:
- Spouse and spouse's parents.
- Sons and daughters, and their spouses.
- Parents and their spouses.
- Brothers and sisters, and their spouses.
- Grandparents and grandchildren, and their spouses.
- Domestic partner and domestic partner's parents, including domestic partners of any individual named in (2) through (5), above.
- Any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.
- For leave purposes, a domestic partner is an adult living in a committed relationship with another adult. A "committed relationship is one in which the employee, and the domestic partner of the employee, are each other's sole domestic partner (and are not married to or domestic partners with anyone else); and shares responsibility for a significant measure of each other's common welfare and financial obligations." Both domestic partners of the same sex and of the opposite sex are included, along with those living in relationships acknowledged by states as marriages or equivalent to marriage. The children of domestic partners are considered the equivalent of the employee's own children, and in loco parentis relationships are included under “parents” and “sons and daughters”.
Sick Leave Accrual
- Full-time Employees:
- 1/2 day (4 hours) for each biweekly pay period (13 days per year).
- Part-time Employees:
- 1 hour for each 20 hours in a pay status.
- There are no limits on the amount of sick leave that can be accumulated. Unused sick leave accumulated by employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) will be used in the calculation of their annuities.
- Sick leave was initially not creditable for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) employees hired since January 1, 1984. However, the FY 2010 Defense Department Appropriations Act of October 2009 provided a phased in arrangement for FERS retirees. Through December 31, 2013, 50 percent of unused sick leave will count toward FERS annuities. From 2014, 100 percent of sick leave will be used.
Requesting Sick Leave
- Typically, an employee should request supervisory approval for sick leave as far in advance as possible. Requests are initiated by employees when they submit a leave request in the time and attendance system (webTA). For employees exempt from the use of webTA, requests are initiated by completing an OPM Form 71, Application for Leave. Under normal circumstances, no further documentation (other than the request in webTA, or the OPM-71 for those exempt from use of webTA) is necessary to support a sick leave absence for up to three (3) days. Medical certificates may be required for absences extending beyond three workdays. Under certain circumstances, employees may be placed on a Letters of Requirement, making it mandatory that employees provide medical documentation to support any absence due to illness or medical treatment.
- Employees should schedule leave for prearranged examinations or treatment in advance of the absences. However, when it is necessary for employees to be absent from work due to illness (either the illness of the employee or a family member), employees should notify their supervisor before, or as soon as possible after, they are scheduled to report for duty. Typically, this notice should be done within two hours of the start of an employee’s scheduled workday. (An employee covered by a union contract should refer to any specific provisions set forth in the contract to ensure they are following the proper leave procedures.) Employees should obtain supervisory approval prior to departing early from work for illness or to leave to care for a family member who is ill.
Granting Sick Leave
- An agency may grant sick leave only when supported by administratively acceptable evidence. For absences in excess of 3 days, or for a lesser period and when it is determined necessary, an agency may require a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence to support the absence.
Advancing Sick Leave
- Up to 30 days (240 hours) of sick leave may be advanced to a full-time employee: ◦Who is incapacitated for the performance of his or her duties by physical or mental illness, injury, pregnancy, or childbirth;
- For a serious health condition of the employee or a family member;
- When the employee would, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a communicable disease;
- For purposes relating to the adoption of a child; or
- For the care of a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, provided the employee is exercising his or her entitlement to FMLA leave to care for a covered service member.
- Up to 13 days (104 hours) of sick leave may be advanced to a full-time employee:
- When he or she receives medical, dental or optical examination or treatment;
- To provide care for a family member who is incapacitated by a medical or mental condition or to attend to a family member receiving medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment;
- To provide care for a family member who would, as determined by the health authorities having jurisdiction or by a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by that family member's presence in the community because of exposure to a communicable disease; or
- To make arrangements necessitated by the death of a family member or to attend the funeral of a family member.
- Thirty days is the maximum amount of advance sick leave an employee may have to his or her credit at any one time. For part-time employees (or employees on an uncommon tour of duty), these amounts must be prorated according to the number of hours in the employees’ regularly scheduled administrative workweek.
- Requests for advanced sick leave must be made in writing through the supervisory chain, and must include the amount of leave requested and the reason the advance sick leave. Applications must also be supported by documentation appropriate to the situations (e.g., for adoption purposes, the employee's certification and attorney's certification may be required; for medical/illness purposes, a medical certification would be required). In the case of advanced sick leave for illness or disability, the medical documentation must include a diagnosis, prognosis, and the physician's estimate of the time of incapacitation.
- Typically, advanced sick leave will not be granted to employees when it is known that employees do not intend to return to duty or when available information indicates that there is only a remote possibility that employees will be returning to work; when employees have applied for disability retirement; or when employees have signified their intention to resign for disability reasons.
- Advances of sick leave are considered debts due the U.S. Government, and therefore obligate employees to repay the advances either by charges against subsequently earned leave or by repayment upon separation. However, employees with advanced sick leave who enter active military duty with restoration rights, who die, or who are separated due to disability are not required to liquidate their indebtedness for advanced sick leave.