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Federal Diary

New Comp Time Rule for Travelers Might Help Morale Soar

By Stephen Barr
Monday, January 31, 2005; Page B02

The Office of Personnel Management last week issued an eagerly awaited regulation that allows federal employees to claim time off for travel during their off-duty hours.

The regulation, which went into effect Friday, should provide a morale boost to employees who travel on official business during off-duty hours, such as flying on a Sunday to attend a meeting Monday morning. Previous rules have made it difficult for employees to qualify for compensation while traveling outside normal business hours.

_____More Federal Diary_____
Homeland Security Policies To Bring Big Changes (The Washington Post, Jan 30, 2005)
Senior Executives Association Protests Smaller Raises in Defense Department (The Washington Post, Jan 28, 2005)
Unions Strongly Disagree With Ridge on New Personnel Rules (The Washington Post, Jan 27, 2005)
Labor Department Prevails in Bargaining Dispute With Local 12 (The Washington Post, Jan 26, 2005)
Federal Diary Page

The regulation comes with several definitions and conditions, such as what can be considered "travel status" and "usual waiting time." The regulation essentially serves as a default for those times when employees cannot receive some form of compensation under other rules.

In a memo to agency heads, OPM provided an example of how the regulation would be applied to an employee sent to a week-long conference that required a Sunday departure and a Saturday return.

Under this scenario, the employee spends 13 hours traveling to and from the conference. But two hours of travel to and from the airport are "considered equivalent to commuting time and not creditable time in a travel status," OPM said.

In addition, 30 minutes spent eating breakfast at the airport on the way home "is considered a bona fide meal period and is not creditable travel time," the agency said.

That leaves the employee with 10 1/2 hours of compensatory time off for travel, OPM said.

In another example, OPM described an employee who made a one-day business trip, with 13 hours of travel time. Like the weekend traveler, the employee could not claim comp time for commuting to and from the airport or for an airport meal. The employee also cannot claim time that is considered part of regular working hours -- 4 1/2 hours in this case. That would leave the workday traveler able to claim six hours of comp time off for travel, OPM said.

Some employees may not be eligible to use the new benefit. Law enforcement officers who receive extra pay, known as availability pay, for performing unscheduled work cannot claim comp time off for travel, for example.

The National Treasury Employees Union had pushed for the new time-off benefit, which was signed into law in October. "It is the kind of benefit that improves the government's ability to compete for high-quality job seekers and retain the dedicated and talented people already in public service," said Colleen M. Kelley, the union president.

Employees must use their comp time within a year of earning it. They forfeit the time off if they quit the government or transfer to another agency. There are no limits on the amount of time off for travel that an employee may earn.

The OPM memo said each agency will set up procedures for requesting credit for comp time off for travel.

Accountants to Gather

The Association of Government Accountants will hold its national leadership conference Feb. 7 and 8 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, bringing together more than 450 federal, state and local officials for discussions on how to improve government performance.

Speakers will include Andrew B. Maner, chief financial officer at the Department of Homeland Security, and public policy experts Stephen Goldsmith and Paul C. Light.

For details, go to www.agacgfm.org.

GAO Careers

The Government Accountability Office, an arm of Congress, is accepting applications for its Executive Candidate Assessment and Development Program. The program provides training for senior-level audit and evaluation positions at GAO, which pay between $104,101 and $135,136 annually.

Applicants must apply online at www.gao.gov before Feb. 24. For more information, call 202-512-4900.

Gage on Diary Live

What does the new pay and personnel system at the Department of Homeland Security mean for employees there and elsewhere in the government?

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, offers his views and will take questions at noon Wednesday on Federal Diary Live at www.washingtonpost.com. Please join us.

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com

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