A recent report in the Washington Post has reported that Congress gave final agreement to curbing a practice used by agencies across government to deal with employees accused of misbehavior: Paid time off. The annual defense bill that cleared the Senate and now goes to the White House for President Obama’s signature limits the use of administrative leave to 10 work days in a calendar year.
Both Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate concluded that sidelining thousands of employees every year to often-indefinite paid vacations is not good for government or taxpayers.
Paid time off has been a strategy to get problem employees out of the office but it has cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year. An exemption to the 10-day rule will be allowed when an employee is deemed to be a threat to workplace safety. But even in that case, agencies will need to justify leave for longer than 30 days, get permission from higher-ups to continue it and report it to Congress.
In 2014 the Government Accountability Office advised that it found that 53,000 civilian employees were kept home for one to three months during the three fiscal years that ended in September 2013.
The legislation won’t take effect for 540 days. That’s because the Office of Personnel Management has 270 days to issue regulations specifying details of the change. Then, agencies have an additional 270 days to update their computer and personnel systems to track who is on paid leave.
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