Should workers be rewarded for staying healthy. Or at least for not calling in sick when they’re not sick?
About 40 years ago, when all feds were under the use-it-or-lose-it system, Congress decided that too many employees were overusing/abusing sick leave. Especially in the last year of retirement. Studies then showed that the average employee—who earned 104 hours of sick leave each year—had about 40 hours of unused sick leave at the time of retirement. Most of the leave they had built up over the years was taken, a day or two at a time, in the last year of service. At that time all of the workers were under the CSRS retirement system.
So Congress passed a law saying that when CSRS workers were otherwise eligible to retire they could tack on their unused sick leave to boost their annuities. Each year of unused sick leave (2080 hours) increased their annuity 2 percent.
But when Congress created the FERS retirement system (to replace CSRS) it didn’t give those employees the same incentive to save sick leave. Result: The FERS flu. People using lots of sick leave in the last year of work.
Language in the House version of the Defense Authorization Act would give FERS employees (who make up 80 percent of the workforce) the same incentive to save their leave. The Obama administration does not support it. http://www.federalnewsradio.com/?nid=20&sid=1753451
So how do feds feel about the situation. Here’s an interesting letter from a long-time FERS employee:
I have been under FERS since its inception and have accumulated over 1,800 hours of sick leave. Having a cushion of sick leave is a great benefit and protection against loss of income due to a significant health issue – even if it can’t be ‘credited’ at retirement. In my early years I made doctor or dental appointments on Saturday and after work if I could so I could build that cushion. I had to be pretty sick to call in and miss a day of work. However, once I hit my comfort level (about a 1,600 hours ‘cushion’) I quit making an effort to minimize my sick leave usage. I don’t take sick leave to which I am not entitled, but I now make dental and doctor appointments in the middle of the afternoon to minimize my personal time lost, so I take 3 or 4 hours instead of none or one; I volunteer to take Family Friendly sick leave to care for my mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s so my wife does not lose paid leave; if I have an allergy attack or don’t feel well, I take leave. I know there are people who take sick leave when the have no valid reason, but I think those people did it under the old system and will not be deterred by the chance to get ‘credit’ under FERS. Over the last five years I have averaged 40 to 60 hours of sick leave rather than the 0 to 20 hours before that. By the time I retire I will have validly used hundreds of more hours of sick leave than I otherwise would have with a little incentive. I think there are a lot of people like me and that’s where the government can save more money than the calculations based on just the last year.