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Leave Without Pay (LWOP)

Leave without pay (LWOP) is a temporary non-pay, non-duty status granted to an employee with supervisory approval. LWOP differs from absence without leave (AWOL), in that LWOP is an approved absence from duty. Normally, an employee must exhaust all annual leave before LWOP is granted. Exceptions may be granted authorized in individual cases of a meritorious nature (see circumstances cited below). A supervisor may authorize LWOP in a variety of circumstances such as, but not limited to:

  • training or continuing education that will be of benefit to the agency;
  • extended recovery time from serious illness or disability;
  • job seeking when the employee’s spouse receives a transfer to another location;
  • personal court appearances;
  • absences related to an on-the-job injury or occupational illness;
  • military service, when military leave has been exhausted;
  • sustaining employee status and benefits pending disability retirement; and,
  • up to 24 hours of LWOP each year for school and early childhood educational activities, routine family medical appointments, and elderly relatives' health or care needs. This entitlement may be used to meet the needs of an employee’s same-sex domestic partner or the partner’s children.

Extended LWOP is a period exceeding 30 days duration. Extended LWOP involves certain costs and inconveniences to the Government (i.e., encumbrance of a position, loss of needed services, complications of RIF registers, etc.). Requests for extended LWOP must be examined closely to assure that the value to the Government or the serious needs of the employee offset these costs and administrative inconveniences. As a basic condition to the approval of extended LWOP, there should be a reasonable expectation that the employee will return to work at the end of the approved period.

Effect of Extended Leave Without Pay (LWOP) or Other Nonpay Status of Federal Benefits and Programs
Type of Benefit/Program The amount of LWOP (or other nonpay status) that is considered creditable service for purposes of determining an employee's entitlement to or eligibility for the following Federal benefits and programs:
Career Tenure The first 30 calendar days of each nonpay period are creditable service.
Completion of Probation A total of 22 workdays in a nonpay status is creditable service.
Time-in-grade requirements (requirements for promotion) Any nonpay status is creditable service.
Retirement Benefits A total of 6 months in a nonpay status in any calendar year is creditable service. Coverage continues at no cost to the employee while in a nonpay status.

When an employee is in a nonpay status for only a portion of a pay period, contributions are adjusted in proportion to his/her basic pay (5 U.S.C. 8332 and 8411).
Health Benefits Enrollment continues for no more than 365 days in a nonpay status.

The nonpay status may be continuous or broken by periods of less than 4 consecutive months in a pay status (5 CFR 890.303(e)).

The Government contribution continues while an employee is in a nonpay status.

The Government also is responsible for advancing from salary the employee share as well.

An employee may choose between paying the agency directly on a current basis or having the premiums accumulate and withheld from his or her pay upon returning to duty.
Life Insurance Coverage continues for 12 consecutive months in nonpay status without cost to the employee (5 CFR 870.401(c)) or to the agency (5 CFR 870.401(d)).

The non-pay status may be continuous, or it may be broken by a return to duty for periods of less than 4 consecutive months.
Within-Grade Increases A total of 2 workweeks in a nonpay status in a waiting period is creditable service for advancement to steps 2, 3 & 4 of the General Schedule; 4 workweeks for advancement to steps 5, 6 and 7; 6 workweeks for advancement to steps 8, 9 and 10. (5 CFR 531.406(b).)

For prevailing rate employees (WG, WL & WS) a total of 1 workweek in a nonpay status is creditable service for advancement to step 2, 3 weeks for advancement to step 3, and 4 weeks for advancement to steps 4 and 5 (5 CFR 532.417(b)).
Accrual of Annual and Sick Leave When a full-time employee accumulates 80 hours of LWOP during a pay period, the employee does not earn annual leave or sick leave during that pay period. The employee earns leave in the next succeeding pay periods until he or she again accumulates 80 hours of LWOP during a pay period (5 CFR 630.208). When a part-time employee is in a nonpay status, he or she will accrue less annual leave and sick leave, since a part-time employee earns leave on a pro-rata basis--i.e., based on hours in a pay status (5 CFR 630.303 and 630.406). For purposes of computing accrual rates for annual leave (i.e., 4, 6, 8 hours each pay period), 6 months of nonpay status in a calendar year is creditable service (5 U.S.C. 6303(a) and 8332(f)).
Reduction in force (determining years of service) A total of 6 months of nonpay status in a calendar year is creditable service.
Severance pay Nonpay status time is fully creditable for the 12-month continuous employment period to qualify for severance pay (5 U.S.C. 5595(b)(1) and 5 CFR 550.705). However, for purposes of computing an employee's actual severance payment, any time in a nonpay status that is not creditable for leave accrual must be excluded from his or her creditable service. (5 U.S.C. 5595(c)(1) and 5 CFR 550.707-708.)
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) An employee should refer to the TSP Fact Sheet - Effect of Nonpay Status on TSP Participation, available from the TSP link listed under References.
Military duty or Workers' Compensation Nonpay status for an employee who is performing military duty or being paid workers' compensation counts as a continuation of Federal employment for all purposes upon the employee's return to duty.