Pay, leave and other questions answered about Wednesday’s government closure

Most federal employees who are excused from work on Wednesday to honor the passing of President George H.W. Bush will continue to get paid with no interruptions.

President Donald Trump signed an executive order over the weekend, which declared Wednesday, Dec. 5 as a “national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush” and an observable holiday.

It’s for this reason that federal employees generally shouldn’t see any difference in their pay, unless they’re activated to work for national security and safety reasons or participate in state funeral services.

Full time federal employees under a standard work schedule of eight hours a day, 40 hours a week will be excused from eight hours of work on Wednesday, Margaret Weichert, acting director for the Office of Personnel Management, said Sunday in a memo to agency heads.

Federal employees on a compressed work schedule will be excused from the number of hours they would typically work on the declared holiday. Employees on a 10-hour work schedule, for example, will be excused from 10 hours of work on Wednesday. 

Employees who have already planned to take annual leave on Wednesday won’t be charged for the time, OPM said, though this policy doesn’t apply to employees who receive annual premium pay for standby duty or firefighters covered by certain special pay provisions.

Federal workers who aren’t scheduled to work on Wednesday may be eligible to receive an “in lieu of” holiday, OPM said. Employees, for example, who work a Friday through Tuesday schedule should take their “in lieu of” holiday on the proceeding work day, or Tuesday, Dec. 4.

Employees who work a Thursday through Monday schedule should take their “in lieu of” holiday on Monday, Dec. 3, OPM said.

Part time and intermittent employees aren’t eligible for “in lieu of” holidays.

“Agencies may exercise their discretionary authority to grant administrative leave to part-time employees whose offices are closed on a day when most full time employees have an “in lieu of” holiday for the national day of mourning for President George H.W. Bush,” OPM’s guidance reads.

Any employee who does work on Wednesday’s holiday will generally receive holiday premium pay in addition to his or her regular pay, OPM said. Employees assigned to work on Wednesday are entitled to a minimum of two hours of holiday premium pay.

Members of the Senior Executive Service and other foreign service officers are not eligible for holiday premium pay.

It’s up to each agency and department head to determine what employees, if any, can’t be excused from work on Wednesday for national security, defense or other “essential public business” reasons, Weichert said.

For even more details and specific scenarios on holiday premium pay, compensatory time off, night pay and travel, find OPM’s guidance on the Dec. 5 observable holiday here.

The Defense Department has updated its state funeral website with some details for the upcoming ceremonies. A state funeral typically lasts seven-to-10 days and consists of three stages in the president’s home state of Texas and in Washington, D.C.

“The ceremonies occurring in the national capital region may involve Armed Forces honor guards, elite military bands and other service academies, National Guard and U.S. Armed Forces Reserve units,” the site reads. “The ceremonies occurring outside of the national capital region may include Washington-based honor guards and local service units to include active duty, National Guard and Reserve for logistical, military band and/or salute guns support.”

Most congressional committees are also postponing previously-scheduled hearings for Wednesday. The House judiciary and veterans affairs committees have already postponed their hearings that day. The House won’t resume legislative business until the end of the week.

Congress is expected to introduce a two-week temporary continuing resolution to avoid a partial government shutdown Friday night. The CR is supposed to keep agencies open through Dec. 21.

Lawmakers have through Friday, Dec. 7 to find either a temporary or permanent solution to fund the remaining agencies that still lack full-year appropriations and avoid a partial government shutdown.