Annual Leave


Annual leave is provided by law and accrues automatically to permanent employees and temporary employees who are serving under appointments that exceed 90 days. Temporary employees who are on appointments limited to 90 days or less become entitled to annual leave once they have been employed continuously for 90 days. This entitlement exists regardless of how many successive appointments the employee serves before completing the 90-day waiting period, provided there is no break in service between the appointments. Once s/he completes 90 days, the employee is credited with the leave that accrued to him or her during that period.

Charges to Leave

The minimum charge for annual ( sick leave or any absence in a non-pay status) is 15 minutes. Any additional leave is charged in multiples of 15 minutes. . Supervisors may only charge leave on those days the employee would otherwise work and receive pay. They may not charge either annual or sick leave for absences on holidays or other non workdays unless they have employees who receive additional pay for standby tours of duty. In cases where the employees do not have sufficient annual leave available to cover the leave taken, the excess absence is charged first to compensatory time, if any, and then to leave without pay(LWOP). When employees do not have sufficient sick leave available, the pay system will automatically charge the excess to any annual leave, then to compensatory time, if any, and finally to leave without pay.
When an employee is unavoidably tardy or absent for less than an hour, and the supervisor agrees the reasons are acceptable, s/he may excuse the absence without charge to leave. If the reasons are not acceptable, the supervisor may charge the employee absence without leave (AWOL) or allow the employee to take leave. When the supervisor chooses either of these options, s/he may not require the employee to perform work for any part of the leave period charged against the leave account.


Full-time employees earn annual leave , based on their years of service. Employees with less than three years of service earn 4 hours of annual leave per pay period , employees with between three and 15 years of service earn 6 hours of leave per pay period and employees with 15 or more years of service earn 8 hours of annual leave per pay period. Part-time employees earn leave on a pro-rated basis. During the first three years, they earn one hour of leave for every 20 hours in a pay status. Between their third and fifteenth year, they earn one hour of leave for every 13 hours in a pay status; and, after their fifteenth year, they earn one hour of leave for every 10 hours in a pay status. Most employees have a maximum accumulation of 30 days each year. Employees who work outside the United States, unless they were hired locally, can accumulate up to 45 days each year. Employees forfeit any leave to the their credit at the end of the leave year that exceeds the limit. Employees can have the leave restored if the forfeiture meets the provisions described in the next paragraph.

Leave Restoration and Forfeiture

The agency may restore annual leave that would be lost if the agency determines that an exigency (an urgent need for the employee to be at work and/or work situation requiring immediate action) of the service exists, if the employee is ill or if the agency makes an administrative error that causes the loss of annual leave otherwise accruable. Leave restoration in these instances is only possible if the leave was scheduled in advance. The leave must be scheduled and approved in writing before the start of the third pay period before the end of the leave year. In addition, employees at installations closing or realigning pursuant to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act (BRAC) of 1990 will have excess leave restored whether or not such leave was scheduled. When DA closes BRAC designated bases, it is an exigency of the service permitting employees to carry over use-or-lose leave without meeting the criteria for restoration. Employees must use their restored leave within two years after the end of the calendar year in which the leave is restored unless there is an extended exigency under OPM rules as defined in 5 CFR, Section 630.309.

Annual Leave Accounts Upon Separation

An employee will receive a lump-sum payment for any unused annual leave when s/he separates from federal service or enters active duty and elects to receive a lump-sum payment. At separation, an employee is entitled to payment for all annual leave s/he has earned. This includes the regular carryover balances from the previous year, if any; the current leave year's unused earned leave; and, any unused restored leave that has not reached the two year expiration date. Employees with annual leave that is appropriate for inclusion in separation payments may not use the leave as what is commonly referenced as terminal leave unless exigencies of the service require such action. Terminal leave is leave used just prior to an employee's departure from the federal government when the supervisor knows the individual will not return to other federal employment. There are exceptions. Some examples are:

  1. If the employee is being separated due to reduction-in-force or declination of transfer of function, s/he can use the leave to extend the separation date to attain first eligibility for a retirement annuity and/or for Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) annuitant coverage.
  2. If the employee has applied for disability retirement; s/he may use leave.
  3. If the employee returns to work on his/her last administrative workday, s/he may use leave.
  4. If the employee takes leave during the final hours of the last day of employment before separation, providing s/he substantially worked the entire final pay period, including part of the last day.

If an employee receives a lump-sum payment and is then re-employed by the government before the end of the period covered by the payment, s/he must refund an amount equal to the gross compensation received for the unexpired portion of the lump sum leave period. This includes pay before deductions of any kind and, if applicable, differentials and allowances received as well.

DOD guidance on leave is found in DOD 1400-25.M, Civilian Personnel Manual, Chapter 630. Click on Civilian Personnel Manuals, then click on Chapter 600.

Additional information is in the Defense Finance and Accounting regulation, DOD 7000 14-R, Financial Management Regulation, Volume 8, Civilian Pay Policy and Procedures, Chapter 5.

Content last reviewed: 5/2/2013-SZ