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Federal Eye
Posted at 07:35 PM ET, 04/05/2011

Government shutdown: How it will impact federal pay and benefits


The look on this scuplture outside the U.S. Capitol says it all. (RON EDMONDS / AP)
The Obama administration is warning federal workers that they cannot work for free during any shutdown nor can they take paid leave.

In instructions updated and issued Tuesday evening, the Office of Personnel Management issued updated guidance on how a shutdown of even one day would impact each worker’s bottom line.

You can read the full guidance here, but The Federal Eye read it and summarizes below:

Question: What is a furlough?

Answer: According to OPM’s official guidance, “A furlough is the placing of an employee in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status because of lack of work or funds, or other nondisciplinary reasons.”

Q: What is a shutdown furlough and why is one necessary?

A “shutdown furlough” occurs if federal funding runs out. It’s necessary for agencies that no longer have the funds necessary to keep working.

Q: Who’s an “essential” worker? (NOTE: OPM labels employees who work during a shutdown as “excepted employees”):

It’s people working or may continue to do so by law. “Essential/Excepted” employees include people: (1) performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, (2) performing minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities, or (3) performing certain other types of excepted work.

Top agency lawyers and managers are determining who’s considered “essential” and “non-essential.”

Other workers may be “excepted” from the shutdown furlough if their agency or program is covered by appropriations not impacted by the current budget impasse. (Best examples of that are the Federal Highway Administration, which is funded by the federal highway trust fund. The Veterans Health Administration is also handled on a two-year budget cycle.)

Q: How will employees be notified whether they have been designated to be handling "excepted" or "non-excepted" functions?

Answer: Each Agency will communicate with its employees whether they’re “essential” or “non-essential.”

Q: Are all employees who qualify as "emergency employees" for the purpose of weather emergencies considered “essential” during a shutdown?

A: Not necessarily. Emergency employees for weather purposes aren’t automatically deemed “essential” during shutdowns — each agency must determine which employees are excepted employees.

Q: May employees volunteer to do their job without pay during a shutdown?

A: No. Unless otherwise authorized by law, an agency may not accept the voluntary services of an employee. (The Anti-Deficiency Act is the law prohibiting voluntary work.)

Q: Can workers take another job during while furloughed?

A: Even if you’re furloughed, you’re still a federal employee and Executive Branch ethics regarding outside employment still apply. Employees should review those regulations before applying elsewhere.

Q: Will I be paid if I work during a shutdown? If so, when?

A: Agencies will sort out who gets paid for time worked during a shutdown and those employees will be paid when Congress passes and the president signs a new appropriation or continuing resolution.

Q: Will furloughed/non-essential employees be paid for not working during a shutdown?

A: Congress will determine whether “non-essential” workers receive pay for the furlough period.

Q: Can non-esential workers take previously-approved paid leave during a shutdown?

A. No. All paid leave during a shutdown furlough period must be canceled because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave rights. Paid leave creates a debt to the government that isn't authorized by law.

Q: Can essential personnel take previously-approved leave or be granted new requests for paid leave during a shutdown?

A. No. Essential personnel must be either doing their job or furloughed during any absence from work during a shutdown. If an excepted employee refuses to report for work after being ordered to do so, he or she will be considered in an absence without leave (AWOL) and will be subject to any subsequent consequences.

Q: Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?

A. Yes, the employee’s FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time.

Q: What effect will a furlough have on other benefits that are paid for through payroll deductions?

A. It varies. Best thing to do is visit http://www.opm.gov/oca/leave/HTML/LWOP_eff.asp for more information.

Q: Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?

A. It is possible that furloughed employees may become eligible for unemployment compensation. But state unemployment compensation requirements differ. Some require a one-week waiting period before you apply. You should contact your state government directly and visit the Labor Department’s “Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees” information page.

Read the full OPM guidance here. Were all of your questions answered? If not, ask them in the comments section below.

RELATED: Federal Eye government shutdown coverage

By  |  07:35 PM ET, 04/05/2011

Categories:  Government Shutdown

 
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