For federal employees planning to retire on the first 3 days in January 2012, the oft quoted admonition “use it or lose it!” carries a special meaning.  According to a memo from Angela Bailey, Associate Director for Employment Services at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Civil Service Retirement Systems (CSRS) or CSRS Offset employees planning to retire on January 1, 2, and 3, 2012, must schedule their “use or lose” annual leave by November 19, 2011 or risk forfeiting that leave.

Bailey said that this year is “unusual” because the leave year also ends on the last day of the calendar year.  An OPM fact sheet provides leave year beginning and end dates through 2020.

“Use or lose” leave is that amount of annual leave above the employee’s leave ceiling (240, 360, or 720 hours are common).  OPM regulations state that retiring employees must use their “use or lose” leave by the end of the leave year.  The regulations also require employees to schedule unused leave by the “third pay period prior to the end of the leave year (this year that is November 19, 2011 for most Feds) to avoid forfeiture.

Overlooking this requirement will likely cost the retiring employee money.  If the unused leave is forfeited and does not meet requirements to be restored, it cannot be included in the retiree’s lump sum payment for unused annual leave.

OPM suggests that employees should contact their agency’s human resource office for further information.