With talks on averting the “fiscal cliff” apparently stalled, the Office of Personnel Management posted new guidance to federal workers for administrative furloughs on its Web site Thursday afternoon.
“We wanted to take some prudent steps to keep federal employees informed in case an order for sequestration,” said Thomas Richards, OPM’s communications director. He added that the guidelines were not issued as “a reaction to any specific action” involving the talks between President Obama and Congressional leaders.
Nonetheless, after months of the White House expressing confidence that the stand-off would be resolved before a crisis hit and furloughs would be unnecessary, the guidance reflects the reality that little time remains on the calendar to avert the automatic cuts that will be triggered by a failure to reach a deal by the year’s end.
The guidance notes that “agencies are responsible for identifying the employees affected by administrative furloughs based on budget conditions, funding sources, mission priorities (including the need to perform emergency work involving the safety of human life or protection of property), and other factors.”
Employees will be given a minimum 60-day notice before any furlough of longer than 22 days takes place, according to the document. A 30-day notice will be given for shorter furloughs.
The guidance also specifies that employees may not take other forms of paid time off, including annual or sick leave, in lieu of being furloughed.