There are many kinds of leave available to federal employees and it’s worth tackling them one by one. Let’s start with annual leave, which you can earn and use for whatever reason and, within reasonable limits, when you want to.
Regardless of the retirement system you are in, the basic rules on leave accrual are the same for all full-time employees. The amount you can earn depends on your years of federal service. With fewer than 3 years, you earn 4 hours per biweekly pay period (13 days a year). If you have more than three years of service but fewer than 15, you earn 6 hours per pay period (20 days per year). With 15 or more years of service, you earn 8 hours per pay period (26 days a year).
If you are a Senior Executive Service member or other senior level scientific and technical employee, you earn 8 hours of annual leave per pay period (26 days a year) without regard to your years of service.
If you are a part-time GS, Wage or Postal Service employee, the amount of annual leave you’ll earn is prorated according to the time you are in pay status.
The amount of annual leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next depends on your employment category. GS and Wage employees can carry over a maximum of 240 hours (30 days). An overseas employee can carry over 560 hours (45 days). A Postal Service bargaining unit employee can carry over 440 hours (55 days). A Postal Service Executive and Administrative Schedule employee can carry over 560 hours (70 days). If you are in the Senior Executive Service, you have a 720 hour limit (90 days). Note: If you are an SES employee who had more hours than that on October 13, 1994 that amount became your personal limit.
With rare exception, if you don’t use any hours above that level by the end of the leave year (which varies annually; typically it’s a week or so into the new calendar year), you’ll lose it.
As a rule, if you retire (or otherwise separate) before the end of a leave year, you’ll receive a lump-sum payment for all your unused annual leave. The amount will be based on the hourly rate of basic pay you would have earned if you had stayed on the job until your annual leave ran out.
However, if you are a Postal Service bargaining unit employees, you’ll be paid for any leave you carried over from the previous year and any additional leave you earned during the year you retire, as long as it doesn’t exceed the carryover limit for your bargaining unit.