Nearly all federal civilian employees will have an extra pay period for leave accrual this year.

According to a memo from Angela Bailey, OPM’s Associate Director for Employee Services, the leave year for most federal employees began on January 1, 2012 and will end on January 12, 2013.  This means that the 2012 leave year for most employees will have 27 pay periods, one more than the usual 26 pay periods.

Full-time federal civilian employees earn four (less than three years), six (three years to less than 15 years), or eight hours (15 or more years) of annual leave per pay period depending on their time in service.  Part-time employees earn one hour for each 20 hours in pay status (less than three years), one hour for each 13 hours in pay status (three years to less than 15 years), or one hour for each 10 hours in pay status (15 or more years).

According to 5 U.S.C. 6303, the federal employee leave year begins on the first day of the first full biweekly of the calendar year and ends on the last day of the period before the beginning of the next leave year.  Most employees’ leave year began on January 1, 2012.  However, if an employee’s pay period began on January 8, 2012, only 26 pay periods will apply for accruing annual leave in 2012.

Even though most employees will have 27 pay periods for accruing annual leave, Bailey emphasizes that employees will still have 26 “pay dates” in 2012.  This is because leave is accrued for pay periods, not pay dates. 

Bailey also stressed that employees must use (or lose) any accumulated leave above the maximum carryover allowed by law (240 for most employees, 350 for overseas, and 720 for Senior Executive Service employees) by January 12, 2013.  However, an agency can restore “forfeited” leave if an employee schedules such leave, in writing, by December 1, 2012.