HR: Employee Handbook: Leave

Annual Leave is paid leave for such uses as vacations, personal or family needs, or emergencies. Employees have the right to request and use approved annual leave that they earn. Supervisors are responsible for approving or disapproving individual leave requests and for determining when annual leave may be taken. Generally, supervisors and employees work together to schedule leave at times that suit both the employee's and the organization's needs.

Full-time employees with less than 3 years of Federal Government service (or Smithsonian service for Trust Fund employees) earn annual leave at the rate of 4 hours each pay period (every 2 weeks). After 3 years of service, the earning rate increases to 6 hours each pay period. After 15 years, the earning rate increases to 8 hours per pay period. Part-time employees will accrue annual leave in proportion to the number of hours you work in a pay period.

If you have prior Federal, military or Smithsonian service, you should consult with the Human Resources Department to determine if that time is creditable for annual leave earning purposes. Except for certain overseas employees, you may accumulate and carry over to a new leave year an annual leave balance of up to 240 hours. Unused leave over 240 hours is forfeited.

Sick Leave is paid leave for the following:

  1. for an employee's medical, dental, or optical examinations or treatment;
  2. when the employee is incapacitated for the performance of duties by sickness, injury, or pregnancy and confinement;
  3. when the employee is required to give care and attendance to an immediate family member who has a contagious disease; or
  4. when the employee's presence at work would jeopardize the health of others because of exposure to a contagious disease.

Full-time employees earn sick leave at the rate of 4 hours per pay period regardless of length of service. Part-time employees accrue 1 hour of sick leave for each 20 hours in a pay status. Sick leave hours may be accumulated and carried over to a new leave year without limit.

Recredit of Sick Leave

A Federal employee who has had a break in service is entitled to a recredit of sick leave (without regard to the length of his or her separation) if he or she returns to a leave-earning Federal position on or after December 2, 1994.

A Trust Fund employee who has had a break in service is entitled to a recredit of sick leave (without regard to the length of his or her separation) if he or she returns to a leave-earning Trust Fund position on or after December 2, 1994.

Advance Annual or Sick Leave

There is no entitlement to advanced annual or sick leave.

An employee may be advanced up to the amount of annual leave that he or she would earn in the remainder of the leave year. In advancing leave, the supervisor must have some assurance that the employee will be in duty status long enough to earn the leave advanced. The supervisor must also ensure that the reasons for and amount of advanced annual leave requested are justifiable and reasonable.

An employee may be advanced up to 30 workdays (240 hours) of sick leave for illness, injury, or confinement following childbirth. In addition, limited advance sick leave may be granted for general family care or bereavement, care of a family member with a serious health condition, and adoption. Requests for advance sick leave, regardless of the amount of advanced sick leave requested, MUST be supported by administratively acceptable medical documentation.

Sick leave may not be advanced if it is considered likely that the employee will not return to duty for a sufficient period of time to repay the advance. Repayment is not necessary when separation occurs because of death, resignation for disability supported by acceptable documentation, or disability retirement.


To request advance leave, the employee submits the following documentation:

  • A written request explaining the reasons for the advance leave request and the amount requested.
  • If requesting 40 hours or more of advance leave, an Advance Leave Agreement must also be submitted.
  • If requesting advance sick leave in any amount, a doctor's certificate verifying the employee's illness and incapacitation and the estimated date of recovery for work is required.

Advance leave requests for 40 hours or more must be submitted to the Director of Human Resources for final decision.

Leave Transfer Program

Through the Leave Transfer Program, you may donate annual leave hours to another employee in need, or request a donation for your own use if necessary. Employees may apply to become a leave recipient under the Leave Transfer Program when they have exhausted their annual and sick leave balances and they will be in a non-pay status for three or more days due to a medical emergency. The qualifying period for part-time employees must represent at least 30% of the employee's tour of duty.

Sick leave to care for a family member is considered "available paid leave" for an employee who is approved to become a leave recipient under the Leave Transfer Program, if the medical emergency involves a family member of the employee and the employee has sick leave available for use. Employees must use available sick leave to care for the family member (subject to family care limitations) before they can begin using donated leave.

To apply for Leave Transfer Program recipient status, you will need to complete an application and provide medical documentation of your incapacitation. Approval as a leave recipient will not guarantee that leave will be donated.

Leave donations may be made using the Leave Transfer Program Donor Application. Employees who wish to donate annual leave are responsible for completing this form, showing the amount of annual leave to be transferred and the recipient to whom it is to be transferred. The form should be forwarded to the Human Resources Department at MS17 for approval. Employees will need to notify their supervisor and timekeeper of the leave transfer. Human Resources will notify the employee if the request is disapproved. Trust Fund employees may donate annual leave only to other Trust Fund employees. Federal employees may donate annual leave only to other Federal employees.

The amount of annual leave that you may transfer is one-half of the total hours of annual leave you will earn during a calendar year. The limits for full time employees are as follows:

  • 52 hours for employees in the 4-hour leave earning category
  • 80 hours for employees in the 6-hour leave earning category, and
  • 104 hours for employees in the 8-hour leave earning category.

Part-time employees should ask their timekeepers or Human Resources to compute the number of hours that they may transfer.

Emergency Leave Transfer Program

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced the Emergency Leave Transfer Program has been established, which would allow Federal employees to donate annual leave to other Federal employees who have been adversely affected by disasters or emergencies such as earthquakes, floods, or terrorist bombings. Annual leave would be donated through OPM to the agency or agencies affected by any presidential declared disaster or emergency. Smithsonian Trust Fund employees are not eligible to donate annual leave for this purpose.

Other Leave-Related Issues

Leave for childbirth or adoption may be charged against your annual and/or sick leave account as appropriate, or may be taken as Leave Without Pay.

Other leave categories include administrative leave used for holidays, military leave, leave without pay, family and medical leave, and court-duty leave.

All leave must be requested and approved in advance by your supervisor, except in instances of extreme emergency or a declared liberal leave situation. Failure to request and receive approved use of your leave could result in absence without leave (AWOL), an offense which may result in disciplinary action.

Additional Information

Any questions regarding these entitlements should be directed to Lyhgmy Doyen in the Human Resources Department at (617) 495-7371.

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