A government shutdown is looming this week if the House and Senate do not come to an agreement about how to fund the government by Friday, Dec. 21. Here’s what federal employees can expect in regard to pay, retirement and holidays if a furlough occurs.
A shutdown furlough occurs when there is a lapse in annual appropriations. Shutdown furloughs can occur at the beginning of a fiscal year, if no funds have been appropriated for that year, or upon expiration of a continuing resolution, if a new continuing resolution or appropriations law is not passed.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has prepared human resources guidance for agencies and employees on shutdown furloughs (also called emergency furloughs).
Below are a few highlights of some of the Guidance for Shutdown Furloughs provided by OPM (most recent update: September 2015). NOTE: This guidance applies to activities that are funded by annual appropriations. Some agency functions have alternative funding sources and, as a result, are not directly affected by a lapse in annual appropriations.
Federal Pay During a Government Shutdown
1. Will excepted employees be paid for performing work during a shutdown furlough? If so, when will excepted employees receive such payments?
A. Agencies will incur obligations to pay for services performed by excepted employees during a lapse in appropriations, and those employees will be paid after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.
(Note: Presidential appointees who are not covered by the leave system in 5 U.S.C. chapter 63 are not subject to furlough, but are also barred from receiving pay during a lapse in appropriations. These Presidential appointees will be paid after Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.)
2. Will employees who are furloughed get paid?
A. Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period.
3. Will employees receive a paycheck for hours worked prior to a lapse in appropriations?
A. Under Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidance issued in 1980 (below), employees will receive this paycheck. Although the payroll for the last pay period before the lapse will be processed potentially during a period of furlough, the minimum number of payroll staff necessary for this 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. This guidance can be found in OMB’s August 28, 1980, Bulletin No. 80-14, Shutdown of Agency Operations Upon Failure by the Congress to Enact Appropriations, paragraph 3.b.(1) (Appropriations and funds). OMB has reviewed and concurs in this answer.
4. When an employee’s pay is insufficient to permit all deductions to be made because a shutdown furlough occurs in the middle of a pay period and the employee receives a partial paycheck, what is the order of withholding precedence?
A. Agencies will follow the guidance on the order of precedence for applying deductions from the pay of its civilian employees when gross pay is insufficient to cover all authorized deductions found at https://www.chcoc.gov/content/ppm-2008-01-order-precedence-when-gross-pay-not-sufficient-permit-all-deductions.
5. May an excepted employee be permitted to earn premium pay (e.g., overtime pay, Sunday premium pay, night pay, availability pay) during the furlough period?
A. Yes. Excepted employees who meet the conditions for overtime pay, Sunday premium pay, night pay, availability pay and other premium payments will be entitled to payment in accordance with applicable rules, subject to any relevant payment limitations. Premium pay may be earned but cannot be paid until Congress passes and the President signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.
Retirement Services and CSRS/FERS Annuity Payments During A Government Closure
1. I’m a Federal retiree. Will I still receive my monthly annuity payment during a government shutdown?
A. Yes. Federal retirees under the CSRS and FERS retirement systems will still receive their scheduled annuity payments on the first business day of the month
2. How can I make updates or changes to my retirement account?
A. OPM’s Retirement Services is available to assist you with your retirement account. As always, you can make many of these changes online through Services Online or by calling Retirement Services at (888) 767-6738. Due to the volume of calls, we recommend that you first use the online services site to make immediate updates and changes.
3. How do I report the death of a family member during a government shutdown?
A. You can refer to our website www.opm.gov/retire for information on reporting the death of a current retiree and applying for any benefits, or by calling us directly at (888) 767-6738. If the family member was a Federal employee at the time of death, survivors must contact the agency for which the deceased worked. If the employing agency is closed, you may need to wait until after a government furlough to begin the process.
4. I recently retired from Federal service. Will my retirement application be delayed by a government shutdown?
A. If your agency or payroll center submitted your retirement application to OPM, you will begin receiving interim annuity payments while OPM Retirement Specialists process your application. Because OPM Retirement Services is funded by the trust fund it manages, OPM Retirement Services employees will still be working normal operating hours during a government furlough. If your agency or payroll center has not yet submitted your retirement application or the application is incomplete, you will likely experience some delay as OPM must wait on other agencies to submit all of the information needed to process your retirement. Some of these agencies may not be operating during a government furlough.
Federal Retirement During a Government Shutdown
1. If a shutdown furlough occurs during the 3 years of service prior to retirement, what effect will time in a furlough status have on an employee’s high-3 average pay?
A. Generally there will be no effect on the high-3 average pay unless the furlough causes the employee to be in a nonpay status for more than 6 months during the calendar year.
2. Are the retirement rules concerning the effect of a shutdown furlough the same for employees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)?
3. What will happen to employees who would have retired during a shutdown furlough?
A. For employees who, on or before the requested retirement date, submitted some notice of their desire to retire, agencies should, when the lapse in appropriations ends, make the retirement effective as of the date requested. The retirement request may be informal (such as a letter requesting retirement), and can be either mailed or personally submitted to the agency. Any additional required paper work, such as the formal retirement application form, may be completed when the agency reopens. No time spent by the retiree in such actions after the effective date of the retirement may be considered as duty time, since the individual would no longer be an employee of the agency.
4. If an employee is scheduled to retire before the end of the leave year with an annual leave balance of over the maximum leave ceiling (e.g., 240, 360, or 720 hours, as applicable) and the furlough prevents the employee’s retirement from getting processed until January, does the employee lose his or her annual leave above the maximum leave ceiling?
A. No. The employee’s retirement would be retroactively applied to a date prior to the end of the leave year, and the employee would receive the full amount of accumulated and accrued annual leave in a lump-sum payment.
Federal Holidays During a Government Shutdown
1. Will an employee “exempt” from furlough be paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown?
A. Employees are “exempt” from furlough if they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations. As such, an “exempt” employee will be paid for a holiday according to the normal rules governing holidays.
2. Will furloughed employees be paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?
A. Furloughed employees will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough unless authorized by subsequent legislation.
3. What is the status of an “excepted” employee who does not perform work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?
A. An “excepted” employee who does not perform work on a holiday must be placed in a furlough status for the holiday and must be provided written notice of the agency’s decision to furlough in accordance with the guidance in section P. Procedures. This is because during a lapse of appropriations all affected employees must be (1) at work performing excepted activities or (2) furloughed. This applies with respect to any period of time that is part of an affected employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek, including a holiday.
4. Will an “excepted” employee who does not work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough be paid for the holiday?
A. No. An “excepted” employee who does not work on a holiday will be placed in a furlough status for the holiday and will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough unless authorized by subsequent legislation.
5. Can an “excepted” employee voluntarily report to work on the holiday?
A. No. Each agency must determine which excepted activities must be performed on a holiday, and which employees are needed to perform those functions. Employees who are not otherwise needed to perform excepted functions on the holiday must be placed in furlough status for that day.
6. Can “excepted” employees be required to perform work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?
A. Yes. Each agency is responsible for determining which excepted activities must be performed on a holiday in order to carry out functions related to such excepted activities. Failure to report to duty on a holiday is no different than failure to report to work on any other day.
7. What pay entitlements will accrue to an “excepted” employee who performs work on a holiday during a shutdown furlough?
A. The Federal Government will be obligated to pay an excepted employee who performs work on a holiday according to the normal rules governing pay for work on a holiday. For example, under 5 U.S.C. 5546(b), a covered employee would receive his or her rate of basic pay, plus holiday premium pay at a rate equal to the employee’s rate of basic pay. In addition, if such an employee performs officially ordered or approved overtime work on a holiday (i.e., work in excess of his or her basic non-overtime work requirement for that day), the employee would receive overtime pay (or compensatory time off) for that work. Of course, an excepted employee cannot receive payment for working on a holiday until an appropriations act or a continuing resolution is enacted. Please note, holiday premium pay and overtime pay are not applicable to certain employees, such as heads of agencies and members of the Senior Executive Service.
8. How do the “in lieu of” holiday rules apply during a shutdown furlough?
A. When a shutdown furlough is not in effect, all full-time employees, including those on flexible or compressed work schedules, are entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday when a holiday falls on a nonworkday. OPM guidance on “in lieu of” holidays can be found at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration/fact-sheets/holidays-work-schedules-and-pay/.
During a shutdown furlough, generally—
- The normal “in lieu of” holiday rules apply to employees “exempt” from furlough.
- The “in lieu of” holiday rules do not apply to furloughed employees (i.e., employees do not receive an “in lieu of” holiday if they are in a furlough status on a holiday).
- When scheduling holidays for “excepted” employees, the normal “in lieu of” holiday rules apply. However, as explained in Questions G.4., G.5., and G.6., otherwise excepted employees must be furloughed on the “in lieu of” holidays unless they are working.
Complete information from OPM on shutdown furloughs is here.