Leave Without Pay (LWOP) refers to a non-pay status of time off work. Federal regulations for LWOP are located in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR); more specifically, 5 CFR 353 and 630. Additional guidance is in the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act of 1994. Federal and military employees may use LWOP for many reasons, such as illness, military deployment and for absences that fall under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Using LWOP can sometimes adversely affect employee benefits, so make sure you understand acceptable reasons and limits of LWOP.
General LWOP Information
Approval for LWOP is entirely at the supervisor's discretion. The supervisor can approve or deny the request based on whether or not the request is beneficial for both employee and agency. There are reasons outlined in the CRF that require a supervisor to grant an LWOP request. An employee can receive automatic approval of a LWOP request for the following reasons: a disabled veteran awaiting medical treatment; requesting LWOP under the Family and Medical Leave Act and a call to active duty.
LWOP impacts employee retirement benefits, depending upon time length. In a calendar year, less than six months in LWOP status is counted towards time in service and retirement. More than six months brings no credit towards time in service nor retirement, unless the employee is called to active duty.
Health Benefits Impact
Employees can keep their health insurance while on LWOP for a maximum of one year. The government continues to pay their portion of the premiums and will grant a salary advance to pay the employee part of the health insurance premiums until they return to pay status. Employees can choose to forego the salary advance and make the premium payments themselves. The government will also continue to pay the life insurance premiums for up to a year while in a non-pay status.
Employee leave will continue accruing at the usual rate for the first 80 hours in LWOP status. Employees remaining in LWOP status for the following 80 hours will earn no leave during that period. This pattern repeats every 80 hours, which is considered a pay period.