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Work and Time Off for Volunteer Activities

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The Federal personnel system provides departments and agencies with considerable flexibility in scheduling hours of work and time off. Departments and agencies are encouraged to make appropriate use of this flexibility in responding to requests for changes in work schedules or time off to allow employees to engage in volunteer activities, while giving due consideration to the effect of the employee=s absence or change in duty schedule on work operations and productivity.

Alternative Work Schedules

Departments and agencies have the flexibility to approve a variety of work arrangements for employees seeking to engage in volunteer activities during normal work hours.

Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) – Flexible or compressed work schedules may be established for employees who wish to engage in volunteer activities during normal working hours. Employees represented by an exclusively-recognized union may participate in a flexible or compressed work schedule only to the extent expressly provided under a collective bargaining agreement between the agency and the exclusive representative.@ (See 5 U.S.C. 6130(a)(2).) To review the extent to which AWS programs have already been applied, departments and agencies should review their internal AWS policies and practices and collective bargaining agreements. To determine how additional AWS flexibilities may be implemented, departments and agencies may also consult subchapter II of chapter 61 of title 5, United States Code; regulations in 5 CFR part 610, subpart D, Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules; and the Handbook on Alternative Work Schedules ( and OPM’s Labor-Management Relations Guidance Bulletin: Negotiating Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules (

Credit Hours – Credit hours are those hours within a flexible work schedule that an employee elects to work in excess of his or her basic work requirement (e.g., 80 hours in a pay period for a full-time employee) so as to vary the length of a workweek or workday. Employees may use credit hours to fulfill their basic work requirement, thereby gaining time off from work to pursue volunteer activities and for other purposes. If a department or agency authorizes credit hours under its flexible work schedules program, the maximum amount of credit hours that may be carried over from one pay period to another is 24 hours.

Scheduling Time Off From Work

Employees seeking to participate in volunteer activities during basic working hours may be granted annual leave, leave without pay, compensatory time off, or, in very limited and unique circumstances, excused absence, as discussed below. (Employees may also be permitted to use accumulated credit hours under flexible work schedules, as discussed above.)

Annual Leave – When employees request annual leave to perform volunteer service, departments and agencies should be as accommodating as possible in reviewing and approving such requests consistent with regulations in 5 CFR part 630, subpart C, Annual Leave, and applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Leave Without Pay – At the discretion of the agency, leave without pay (LWOP) may be granted to employees who wish to engage in volunteer activities during normal working hours. As with annual leave, OPM encourages departments and agencies, whenever possible, to act favorably upon requests by employees for LWOP to perform volunteer services. However, LWOP is appropriate for extended periods only if the employee is expected to return to his or her job at the end of the LWOP. Agencies should review their internal policies on LWOP and applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Compensatory Time Off – Departments and agencies may approve requests from employees for compensatory time off in exchange for performing an equal amount of time in irregular or occasional overtime work. For employees under flexible work schedules, departments and agencies may approve employee requests for compensatory time off for both regularly scheduled and irregular or occasional overtime work.

Excused Absence (administrative leave) – Each department or agency has discretion to excuse employees from their duties without loss of pay or charge to leave. OPM advises that the granting of excused absence for volunteer activities should be limited to those situations in which the employee’s absence, in the department=s or agency=s determination, is not specifically prohibited by law and satisfies one or more of the following criteria: (1) the absence is directly related to the department or agency’s mission; (2) the absence is officially sponsored or sanctioned by the head of the department or agency; (3) the absence will clearly enhance the professional development or skills of the employee in his or her current position; or (4) the absence is brief and is determined to be in the interest of the agency. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each department or agency head to balance support for employees’ volunteer activities with the need to ensure that employees’ work requirements are fulfilled and that agency operations are conducted efficiently and effectively. Agencies should review their internal guidance on excused absence and applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Part-Time Employment and Job Sharing

Part-time employment or job-sharing may also be appropriate for employees who request such arrangements in connection with performing volunteer service. Regulations in 5 CFR part 340 provide additional information on part-time employment and job-sharing.

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