New legislation that would allow more federal employees to cash out their unused sick leave upon retirement was introduced in the House this week. The benefit would apply to workers in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) as well as employees covered under the Foreign Service Pension System and U.S. Postal Service retirement plan.
Currently, FERS employees cannot count unused sick leave toward their retirement annuity. But employees hired before 1984 and covered under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) do receive such credit for unused sick leave and are allowed to add the unused leave to the number of years they have worked in the government to determine their annuity at retirement.
The legislation, introduced by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA), would provide FERS employees with a benefit equal to the CSRS benefit.
All federal employees receive 13 days of sick leave annually and can carry over unlimited amounts of sick leave. But FERS employees have no incentive to save their sick leave and instead tend to use up their sick days as they approach retirement, while CSRS employees are more likely to use sick leave judiciously.
The National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) quickly endorsed the bill.
“The ‘use it or lose it’ sick leave policy under FERS is unfair to the workers," said Richard R. Brown, National President of NFFE. "The sick leave that federal employees accrue over their careers is a benefit they have earned. They deserve to be compensated in some way for not using that time.”
Moran also cited the indirect cost of the FERS use-it-or-lose-it system in productivity and increased training costs.
“We need to be incentivizing the accrual of sick leave, not encouraging employees to call in sick in the weeks leading up to retirement,” he said.
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