OPM to standardize how agencies report administrative leave

The Office of Personnel Management is taking a new look at the data and reporting requirements around paid administrative leave.

OPM, chief human capital officers and the four federal payroll providers have formed a working group to develop new guidance and to revise payroll data standards.

A new memo from OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said the goal of the effort is to ensure “agencies report comparable and reliable data on administrative...

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The Office of Personnel Management is taking a new look at the data and reporting requirements around paid administrative leave.

OPM, chief human capital officers and the four federal payroll providers have formed a working group to develop new guidance and to revise payroll data standards.

A new memo from OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said the goal of the effort is to ensure “agencies report comparable and reliable data on administrative leave to the Enterprise Human Resources Integration (EHRI) Data Warehouse.”

Archuleta’s memo is the first step toward responding to a Government Accountability Office October report, which found inaccurate data because of how agencies reported to the federal payroll providers about their used paid administrative leave, and because of how the payroll providers reported back to OPM.

“For example, VA employees record all authorized official time for union activities as paid administrative leave in the agency’s time and attendance system,” GAO reported. “In addition, one payroll provider includes federal holidays as administrative leave when reporting the data to OPM. OPM officials said that, in both instances, they would not expect such absences to be recorded as administrative leave. These variations occur because OPM has not provided guidance on what agencies should record and has provided limited guidance on what payroll providers should report as paid administrative leave. Such guidance could help agencies better manage the federal workforce.”

Auditors made two recommendations to OPM:

  • Develop guidance for agencies on which activities to enter, or not enter, as paid administrative leave in agency time and attendance systems; and
  • Provide updated and specific guidance to payroll service providers on which activities to report, or not report, to the paid administrative leave data element in EHRI.

GAO also found agencies paid $3.1 billion to employees on paid administrative leave between fiscal 2011 and 2013. This revelation prompted Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) to write letters to 17 agencies asking for more information about why some employees were on paid administrative leave for more than a year.

Grassley’s office said 16 of 17 agencies responded to the letter, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Transportation, Veterans Affairs and NASA.

“We’re still analyzing the responses but what we’re seeing so far causes concern,” Grassley said in an emailed statement to Federal News Radio. “The responding agencies spent tens of millions of dollars in one year alone to put employees on administrative leave for one month or more, often when administrative leave wasn’t the most appropriate action to take. Agencies need to do a better job of protecting the taxpayers from abusively long or inappropriate paid leave.”

While the working group gets going, OPM also issued a fact sheet about paid administrative leave. The document reminds agencies about the policies guiding the use of this tool, whether governmentwide or department-specific.

“Administrative leave is not an entitlement, and agencies are not required to grant it. However, in special circumstances covered by governmentwide directives or in reaction to emergencies, agencies may have policies and practices in place that provide for automatic application of administrative leave,” OPM wrote in the fact sheet.

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Chris Mihm, Government Accountability Office