An employee is limited in the amount of annual leave that may be carried over from one leave year to the next. In most cases this amount is 240 hours. The leave earned over the maximum carryover limit is generally referred to as "use or lose" leave. With a few exceptions (outlined below), earned hours above the carryover limit not used before the end of the leave year are lost or "forfeited".
In most cases, it is up to each individual employee to ensure that his/her leave is scheduled for use throughout the leave year in order to avoid forfeiture. However, 5 U.S.C. 6304(d)(1)) allows an employee who forfeited annual leave due to an exigency of the public business, illness, or administrative error to have that leave restored for future use. The intent of this regulation is to preserve employee benefits in the event of severe and unforeseen demands. It is not intended to provide an excuse for improper scheduling, planning or utilization of leave by employees or supervisors.
Reasons for restoration of forfeited annual leave
- Exigency of public business:
- An exigency is a work situation that makes urgent demands or requires immediate aid or action. It need not imply a single, isolated incident or emergency and should not be equated to the demands of a normally heavy workload. However, even with the best planning and scheduling of annual leave throughout the year, crises and/or other unforeseen operational demands may occur and be of such importance as to preclude the use of previously scheduled leave by some employees.
- The time and duration of these exigencies must make it impossible to reschedule the annual leave (previously approved for use) before the end of the leave year.
- Exigency Approving Official:
- The determination that an exigency is of major importance (and therefore annual leave may not be used by an employee to avoid forfeiture) should be made by Area, District, and Sector Commanders; Commanding Officers of Headquarters Units (Service Centers or Logistic Centers); Deputy/ Assistant Commandants for Directorates; Judge Advocate General; and Special Staff offices at Headquarters.
- This authority may be re-delegated to the next lower official in the chain of command.
- Delegated Leave Approval Official:
- Once the exigency determination has been made, the individual authorized to approve advanced sick leave or extended leave without pay e.g., personnel officer, managerial level or alternative approval sources (delegated leave approval official), will make a decision on whether the forfeited annual leave will be restored.
- This individual may also be delegated authority to approve restoration of annual leave forfeited due to illness or administrative error.
- Annual leave is scheduled and approved and the employee becomes ill, is injured or is affected by a medical condition requiring the use of sick leave. If the illness prevents the use of approved annual leave, the annual leave may qualify for restoration.
- To qualify, the period of absence due to illness would have to occur so late in the leave year, or be of such duration, that the annual leave could not be rescheduled and used in time to avoid forfeiture.
- Annual leave may not be substituted for sick leave previously granted, where the substitution is made solely to avoid the forfeiture of annual leave. See 31 Comp Gen 524 and 38 Comp Gen 354.
- Administrative Error:
- Annual leave forfeited because of an administrative error may be restored to an employee's account.
- If the person who is entitled to restoration due to administrative error is no longer employed in the Federal service, the restored leave is subject to credit by lump-sum payment, if a claim is filed within three years immediately following the date of discovery of the error.
- For scheduling leave:
- In order to be considered for restoration, the annual leave must have been scheduled AND approved (in writing or electronically) before the start of the third biweekly pay period prior to the end of the leave year (e.g., before pay period 23, generally mid- to late- November of each year). (Note: This does not apply to forfeiture based on administrative error.)
- A reminder notice of these requirements is issued via Advisory Notice from Civilian Human Resources (ANCHR) no later than 10 November of each year.
- The condition that the leave be scheduled and approved for use in advance is a statutory requirement that cannot be waived or modified even where extenuating circumstances exist.
- For requesting restoration:
- In most cases, a request for restoration of forfeited leave due to exigency or illness should be submitted to the delegated leave-approving authority before the end of the leave year in which the leave was forfeited. However, in extreme cases, a request may be accepted no later than 60 days after the end of the leave year in which the leave was forfeited. A request received after that date, in the absence of extenuating circumstances, will not be considered. (Note: This does not apply to forfeiture based on administrative error. A request for restoration based on administrative error must be submitted immediately upon discovery.)