Tag: unused

What Happens to My Unused Vacation Days?

Many people have canceled vacations or have been unable to take time off during the pandemic. My company has a use-it-or-lose it policy, but we can’t all take off between now and the end of the year. What will happen to my unused vacation days?

Employees and managers across the country are facing a year-end reckoning over unused paid time off. Labor laws governing sick leave and vacation time can vary by state, and even by city or county. Most states allow “use-it-or-lose-it” policies, under which employees forfeit any vacation days left unused at the end of the year. A handful of states, however, apply limits to such policies or forbid them outright. Make sure your company policies comply with local labor laws.

There’s still time to make changes for this year, and many businesses are re-evaluating their PTO policies given the pandemic upheaval. Your company may be willing to consider individual accommodations to the regular policy, a companywide temporary policy change or some other solution, given the extraordinary circumstances of Covid-19.

The details

There is a legal distinction between sick days and vacation days, says Wayne Outten, chair of employment-law firm Outten & Golden in New York. “There is no federal law that requires vacation pay, so it’s important to understand the laws of the state you’re in,” he says. Employees concerned about unused vacation days should start by looking at their state and local labor laws and reading up on existing company policy.

Check the fine print. “This is peak ‘handbook season,’ the time of year employers should be taking a look at their policies and boosting them up for 2021,” says Deidra Nguyen, a San Diego-based employment lawyer with Littler Mendelson, a law firm that specializes in management representation.

With so many employees switching to remote work this year, employers should take note of the laws in the place the work is being done, she says, regardless of where the company’s office or headquarters is.

Some policies contain language that may be open to interpretation, she says. For instance, some jurisdictions allow forfeiture of accrued time off, as long as the employee had “a reasonable opportunity to take vacation” during the year but failed to do so.

At what point do travel restrictions, infection risk, remote-learning and mandatory quarantines negate reasonable opportunity? “When someone says I canceled my vacation because of a global pandemic, I would tread lightly there,” Ms. Nguyen says. “Think about how a jury would look at it.”

Most clients she’s heard from recently are considering a one-time reprieves for 2020-2021, rather than permanent policy changes, she says.

For instance, a company with a use-it-or-lose-it policy may allow some rollover of vacation days into the next year. Businesses that typically allow one week of rollover are considering expanding that to two weeks. Others that normally require rollover days be used in the first quarter are extending the period through the second, she says.

Employees hoping for payouts for unused vacation days may be disappointed.

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Vacation on hold? House bill would allow feds to carry over unused annual leave

Some federal employees likely aren’t taking vacation right now, either because they’re under state stay-at-home orders or there’s simply too much work to do — or some combination of both.

A few House Democrats are eyeing new legislation that would ensure federal employees can hold onto the annual leave they’d otherwise have to forfeit at the end of the year.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) introduced the Federal Frontline Worker Leave Protection Act, which would specifically allow employees to carry over unused annual leave due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under existing policy, most federal employees can carry up to 30 days of leave to the next year. Any accrued leave that’s left is usually gone.


But current statute does allow agencies to restore forfeited annual leave to federal employees, but only in specific circumstances. Agencies could, according to regulations from the Office of Personnel Management, restore lost annual leave when there’s an “exigency of public business.”

This may include scenarios where there’s an urgent need for an employee to be at work and therefore can’t use his or her annual leave, OPM has said.

Wexton’s bill would specify the current coronavirus pandemic as an “exigency of public business” for the purposes of restoring annual leave lost before, during or after the date of the legislation’s enactment.

“During the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, our federal workers are stepping up and working tirelessly to help Americans weather this crisis,” Wexton said Tuesday in a statement. “It’s all hands on deck right now and taking time off is not an option for many federal employees. Federal workers should not be forced to lose their benefits while they carry out the essential work of government. We owe it to them to protect what they’ve earned.”

The bill has a few co-sponsors, including Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), as well as District of Columbia Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.

The Pentagon issued related guidance on leave for military members last month. The Defense Department is allowing active-duty members to accrue more leave than usual— anywhere from 60 to 120 days — and hold on to it through 2023.

DoD’s stop move orders, which run through at least June 30, are clearly preventing servicemembers from using their leave, Matthew Donovan, the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, said.

“Leave is vital to the continued health and welfare of our service members and civilian workforce and is key to the Secretary of Defense’s first priority in responding to COVID-19-protecting our service members, DoD civilians, and their families,” he said in the guidance.

Beyond Wexton’s legislation on annual leave, several other congressional members have introduced bills of their own that would compensate or protect federal employees working through the pandemic.

Push for federal hazard pay continues

Congressional Democrats have been most vocal in advocating for hazard pay for federal employees working on the frontlines of the pandemic, but there are signs of bipartisan support.

Nearly 20 senators, led by Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)

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