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Pay & Leave Leave Administration

Fact Sheet: Voluntary Leave Bank Program

Description

Each agency may establish voluntary leave banks under which an employee may contribute unused accrued annual leave for use by a leave bank member who is experiencing a personal or family medical emergency and has exhausted his or her available paid leave. An agency is not required to establish a leave bank program. The agency's leave bank board operates the leave bank and determines how much donated annual leave an employee may receive from the leave bank. Any unused donated annual leave is returned to the leave bank. An employee may participate concurrently in the Voluntary Leave Bank Program (VLBP) and the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program.

Definitions

Medical Emergency:

A medical emergency is a medical condition of either the employee or the employee's family member (see below) that is likely to require the employee to be absent from duty for a prolonged period and to result in a substantial loss of income because of the employee's lack of available paid leave.

Note: The threshold for "a substantial loss of income" is absence (or expected absence) from duty without available paid leave for at least 24 work hours for a full-time employee. (See Approval or Disapproval of Application to Become a Leave Recipient, below.)
Family Member:

The definition of family member covers a wide range of relationships, including spouse; parents; parents-in-law; children; brothers; sisters; grandparents; grandchildren; step parents; step children; foster parents; foster children; guardianship relationships; same sex and opposite sex domestic partners; and spouses or domestic partners of the aforementioned, as applicable. The list of family members for whom an employee may request donated annual leave under the VLBP (as well as important associated definitions for the terms son or daughter, parent, domestic partner, and committed relationship) may be found in the fact sheet on Definitions Related to Family Member and Immediate Relative for Leave Purposes.

Available Paid Leave:

Available paid leave includes an employee's accrued, accumulated, recredited, and restored annual or sick leave. It does not include advanced annual or sick leave, any annual or sick leave in an employee's set aside leave accounts which has not yet been transferred to the employee's regular annual or sick leave account, or other forms of paid time off (i.e., credit hours under flexible work schedules, compensatory time off, or religious compensatory time off).

Note: An employee is entitled to a total of 12 weeks of sick leave each year for all family care purposes. This means if the employee is applying to the VLBP for a medical emergency affecting a family member and the employee has already exhausted his or her entitlement to 12 weeks of sick leave for family care in that leave year, any remaining sick leave is not considered available paid leave and he or she would not be required to exhaust his or her sick leave balance before being eligible for donated leave.

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Leave Bank Board

A participating agency must establish one or more leave bank boards to administer its leave bank program. Each board consists of three members, at least one of which must represent a labor organization or employee group. Each leave bank board is responsible for establishing its internal decision-making procedures; reviewing and approving or disapproving each application to become a leave contributor and a leave recipient; monitoring the status of each leave recipient's medical emergency; monitoring the amount of leave in the leave bank and the number of applications to become a leave recipient; and maintaining an adequate amount of annual leave in the leave bank.

Leave Bank Members and Leave Contributors

To become and remain a leave bank member, an employee must make an application and contribute a minimum amount of annual leave to the leave bank each leave year. The application must specify the number of hours of annual leave to be contributed to the leave bank. The employee makes this donation to establish leave bank membership during annual open enrollment periods or within 30 days of the employee's appointment to the agency or return from extended absence.

A leave bank member may contribute additional annual leave at any time and may also request that annual leave be donated to a specific leave bank member (other than his or her immediate supervisor). An employee who is not a leave bank member may apply to contribute leave at any time. A leave bank member who transfers from a different agency or to a different leave bank is subject to the policies and procedures of the new leave bank, including its minimum contribution requirements.

Minimum and Maximum Leave Donations

The minimum contribution required to become a leave bank member cannot be less than the amount of annual leave he or she normally accrues in a pay period (i.e., 4, 6, or 8 hours). In any leave year, an employee may donate not more than one-half of the amount of annual leave he or she would accrue during the leave year. An employee with "use or lose" annual leave may donate the lesser of one-half of the annual leave he or she would accrue in a leave year or the number of hours remaining in the leave year for which he or she is scheduled to work and receive pay. These limitations apply to a combined total amount of annual leave donated by an employee under the VLTP and an agency leave bank program. Each agency must establish written criteria for waiving the limitations on donating annual leave. The maximum donation amount applies to the total amount of annual leave donated to the leave bank and leave transfer programs.

Leave Recipients

Application to become a leave recipient

In order to receive donated annual leave, a leave bank member who is affected by a personal or family medical emergency must make written application to the leave bank board. If the member is not capable of making written application, a personal representative may make the application on behalf of the employee.

Each application should include:

  • The name, position title, and grade or pay level of the leave bank member.
  • The reasons transferred leave is needed, including a brief description of the nature, severity, and anticipated duration of the medical emergency, and if it is a recurring one, the approximate frequency of the medical emergency affecting the leave bank member.
  • If required by the leave bank board, certification regarding the medical emergency from one or more physicians or other appropriate experts. (The agency must pay the expenses associated with obtaining agency-required certification from more than one source.)
  • Any additional information required by the leave bank board.

Note: When an employee requests leave under the Voluntary Leave Bank Program, the agency may require the employee to document his or her relationship to a family member. Agencies should establish consistent rules and follow the same documentation requirements for all relationships, but agencies still have authority to request additional information in cases of suspected leave abuse.

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Approval or Disapproval of Application to Become a Leave Recipient

The leave bank board must determine that the potential leave recipient's absence from duty without available paid leave because of the medical emergency is (or is expected to be) at least 24 work hours, which may be consecutive or intermittent. For a part-time employee or an employee on an uncommon tour of duty, the period of absence without paid leave is prorated. This period of unpaid absence qualifies as a substantial loss of income for purposes of the medical emergency determination.

The leave bank board must provide timely written notification to an applicant as to whether or not his or her application has been approved. If the leave bank board disapproves an application, the notification must include the reasons for disapproval.

An employee may receive donated annual leave when he or she becomes an approved leave recipient.

Use of Annual Leave Withdrawn from the Leave Bank

Annual leave withdrawn from the leave bank (donated leave) may be used only for the purpose of the approved medical emergency. The employee must use his or her own available paid leave (but not leave accruing in the set-aside accounts) before using donated leave. The leave recipient may use donated leave to retroactively substitute for a period of leave without pay or to liquidate advanced annual or sick leave that began on or after the date fixed by the leave bank board as the beginning of the medical emergency.

Set-Aside Accounts

While using donated leave, a leave recipient may accrue no more than 40 hours of annual leave and 40 hours of sick leave in "set-aside accounts." The leave in the set-aside accounts will be transferred to the employee's regular leave accounts when the medical emergency ends or if the employee exhausts all donated leave. Leave in set-aside accounts is not available for use by the employee until transferred to the employee's regular leave accounts.

An employee who returns to work part-time and who uses donated leave part-time accrues leave in his or her regular annual and sick leave accounts for the time spent in work status and in his or her set aside annual and sick leave accounts for the time spent in shared leave status (when using donated leave).

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Termination of the Medical Emergency

The medical emergency terminates:

  • When the leave recipient's Federal service is terminated;
  • When the leave recipient leaves the agency or participating organization, unless determined otherwise by the bank board;.
  • At the end of the biweekly pay period in which the leave recipient provides written notice that the medical emergency is over;
  • At the end of the biweekly pay period in which the leave bank board determines, after written notice to the leave recipient and opportunity for response, that the medical emergency is over; or
  • At the end of the biweekly pay period in which the agency receives notice that the leave recipient has been approved for disability retirement.

The leave bank board must monitor the status of the medical emergency to ensure that it continues to affect the leave recipient. Even though an employee may not be affected currently by a medical emergency, the leave bank board may deem a medical emergency to continue for the purpose of providing a leave recipient time to receive adequate donations of leave (for example, to compensate for a previous period of leave without pay or to liquidate an indebtedness for advanced leave).

Any unused annual leave withdrawn from the leave bank and not used before the termination of a leave recipient's medical emergency must be returned to the leave bank.

Forms

Each agency that establishes a VLB develops its own forms for its leave bank program. Employees should consult with their human resources office on how to access the applicable leave bank forms.

Other Available Leave Options and Work Schedule Flexibilities

The Federal Government offers a wide range of leave options and workplace flexibilities to assist an employee who needs to be away from the workplace. These flexibilities include annual leave, sick leave, advanced annual or sick leave, voluntary leave transfer, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), leave without pay, alternative work schedules, credit hours under flexible work schedules, compensatory time off and telework.

References:

  • 5 U.S.C. 6361-6373
  • 5 CFR part 630, subpart J

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