(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Question: The government just created something called “weather and safety leave.” Couldn’t agencies already dismiss employees from work for weather or safety reasons?

Answer: Yes, but up to now, it has been done under a catchall authority called “administrative leave,” which agencies used even though there was no explicit provision in law allowing it.

A 2016 law formally put administrative leave on the books as a form of paid leave that an agency can grant for non-work activities during working hours that further its interests, such as allowing employees to participate in agency-sponsored blood drives.

That law also created other types of leave for situations in which agencies commonly had used administrative leave. One applies when severe weather or other reasons make it unsafe for employees to commute or to work at a site. Rules finalized last week cover situations including terrorist attacks, snowstorms and a building power outage.

Still pending are proposed rules on using administrative leave, as well as on two other forms of leave the law created. Those will apply when agencies are investigating employees for possible discipline, and between when a disciplinary notice is issued and when it takes effect.