Proposed Rule Changes Include a Single Method for Counting Leave Time

"We took a look at all our regulations to see what changes we could make that could provide for more consistent application of policies," said Donald J. Winstead, deputy associate director at OPM for pay and performance policy.

The proposed changes cover an array of issues, such as time off, work schedules and military leave, and should help simplify payroll processing. For the last two years, the Bush administration has worked to consolidate 22 payroll providers into four.

One proposed change, for example, would create a government-wide method for calculating leave time for federal employees. OPM would require agencies to charge leave to employees in increments of either six minutes or 15 minutes. Currently, agencies calculate used leave in a variety of time frames, ranging from one minute to one hour.

Another proposal would establish Nov. 15 as the last day employees can schedule use-it-or-lose-it leave each year. The current method varies each year because it is linked to the last pay period of the year, which changes by a day or two each year. "It is just easier to give everyone one date," said Jo Ann Perrini, a pay and leave expert at OPM.

The proposed regulation would make it clear that existing policy does not permit so-called hybrid work schedules, such as a combination of a compressed and a flexible work schedule.

The proposal also clarifies the definition of "official duty station" as it relates to telecommuting and locality pay. The proposed rule would designate the telework location or a temporary assignment site as the employee's duty station for the purposes of locality pay unless the employee comes to work at the agency's office at least once a week. The proposal also provides for exceptions, such as employees working from home for medical reasons or off on critical projects that keep them out of the office for long periods of time.

Most agencies already decide locality pay based on the proposed rule, OPM officials said. But the proposed change could affect the salaries of some employees, since some locality adjustments are higher than others.

OPM published a proposed regulation describing the changes in the Federal Register this month, and they will be open for comment until March 7.

Early Dismissal Wednesday?

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents workers in about a dozen agencies in downtown Washington, urged the agencies yesterday to quickly inform employees of any plans to close early for Wednesday's pre-inauguration activities.

Because some downtown streets will be closed Wednesday afternoon, union President Colleen M. Kelley called on the agency heads to send employees home as early as possible to ease traffic and subway congestion. OPM earlier advised agencies that they may grant administrative leave with pay to employees for security and traffic reasons.

Carl Goldman, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 26, which also represents federal workers, said OPM should have used its authority to grant paid leave to federal employees rather than allow each agency to decide.

"Different agencies in the same area may give different instructions to their employees, still leaving us with the mother of all traffic jams," he said.

Talk Shows

Mark Roth, general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, will discuss changes in personnel systems at the departments of Defense and Homeland Security on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on

Rose Parkes, chief information officer at the Energy Department, will be the guest on the "IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Thank You, OPM Director Kay Coles James" will be the topic for discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

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