How a Shutdown Could Affect Pay, Leave, and Benefits

Dec 18, 2018


Lawmakers have until this Friday, December 21st to finalize funding for several agencies to avoid a partial government shutdown. Not all agencies, however, will be affected. Congress has already funded close to 75% of the government through September 2019. Only agencies covered under these remaining appropriations bills would feel the effects:

  1. Commerce, Justice, Science and related agencies
  2. Financial Services and general government
  3. Interior, Environment, and related agencies
  4. Homeland Security
  5. Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies
  6. State, Foreign Operations, and related agencies
  7. Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies

If funding is allowed to expire on Dec. 21st, upwards of 380,000 employees would be furloughed. Further, more employees would be forced to work without pay during a partial government shutdown.

So, what happens to other benefits and pay for federal employees and retired federal employees in a partial government shutdown?

Federal Employees


If you are furloughed, it’s up to Congress to provide pay for the furlough period. “Excepted” employees are not guaranteed payment for any furlough time.

Holiday Pay

Because a partial shutdown could occur during the Christmas holiday, exempt federal employees—those not impacted by a lapse in appropriations—would get holiday pay while excepted federal employees would not.

Excepted Employees

Excepted employees are those who are funded through annual appropriations and are performing work that, by law, may continue to e performed during a lapse in funding. This work includes emergency work involving the safety of human life or protection of property.

Agencies will have the obligation to pay for excepted employees work during a furlough, and these employees will be paid after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

Paychecks During a Furlough

If payroll for the last pay period before the lapse will be processed during a period of furlough, it will still be processed. The minimum number of payroll staff necessary for the process will be excepted from furlough for the minimum time required to issue the checks, including checks for the last pay period before the lapse.

End of Year Leave

Non-excepted, or non-essential, employees can’t use leave if they’re furloughed during a partial shutdown.

Excepted, or essential, employees, would have their leave canceled during a partial government shutdown. These employees must come to work or be considered Absent Without Official Leave.

Federal Retirees

Annuity Payments

According to the Office of Personnel Management, “Federal retirees under the CSRS and FERS retirement systems will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the 1st business day of the month.”

Retirement Application Processing Time

OPM Retirement Services is funded by the trust fund it manages, so their employees will still be working normal operating hours during a government furlough.

If your agency has not yet submitted your retirement application or your application is incomplete, you’ll likely experience a delay as OPM must wait on other agencies to submit all information needed to process an application, and some of those agencies may not operate during a furlough, so it’s possible you could see delays here.

Employees Retiring During a Furlough

When the furlough ends, agencies should make any request by an employee for retirement effective as of the date requested. The request can be informal and can be either mailed or personally submitted to the agency. Any additional required paperwork may be completed when the agency reopens.

See OPM’s Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs for more information on these, and more, topics.

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