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Excused Absences

Excused absence (aka “administrative leave”) describes times when you’re absent from work but still receive full pay, and the time is not charged to your personal leave account.

There are several situations in which excused absence may be approved, that both you and your leave-approving official should know.

Excused Absences Essentials

  • Excused absences are almost always limited to brief periods of time.
  • Excused absences must be authorized by your leave-approving official.
  • There is some room for supervisors to exercise judgment in deciding whether to authorize excused absence. However, they must follow clear guidelines. These guidelines help ensure that everyone in the Department is treated fairly.
  • If an excused absence is authorized in emergency conditions at a time when you’re already in some other pay status (sick leave, annual leave, etc.), your time may be charged to the status you’re in; it won’t necessarily be changed to excused absence.

Civic Duty

Voting. You can be excused for a reasonable amount of time to register to vote, if that can’t be done on a non-work day.

You can be excused for a limited number of hours to vote. The amount of time allowable for voting depends on your work schedule and the hours your polling place is open.

You can be excused for up to one day to travel to your voting place, if it is beyond your commuting distance and absentee voting isn’t permitted. You can also be excused to have an absentee ballot certified, but only if that can’t be done during non-working hours.

Civil Defense Pre-Emergency Training Programs. If you’re a full-time employee, you may be excused for up to 40 hours a year to participate in training, tests, or drills at the request of state or local civil defense authorities. For absences longer than 8 hours, you will need to provide certification from a responsible local official confirming your participation.

Civil Air Patrol activities are the exception; they are not eligible for excused absence.

Voluntary Service. You can’t be paid for time spent doing volunteer work, so it will be charged to your accrued personal leave. It’s possible that a brief absence (usually up to 4 hours) for voluntary service may be excused, if the service:

  • is directly related to the Department’s mission
  • is officially sponsored by the Secretary
  • will clearly enhance your professional development or skills

Civic, Patriotic, or Community Activities. You may be granted excused absence for certain activities if they are sanctioned for Department employees by the White House or the Secretary. Examples include:

  • viewing a parade
  • welcoming visiting dignitaries
  • other public ceremonies

There are instances in which you’re absent from work for “civic duty” types of activities, but you are still considered to be on official duty. In these cases, you are not granted excused absence but instead remain in your regular base pay status. Examples include:

  • testifying at administrative proceedings
  • pursuing or providing evidence for an EEO complaint

Emergency Conditions

If you work in the Washington, D.C. area, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has detailed procedures for dismissal and closings. For obvious reasons, you should study these in advance. You should not call OPM or other agencies with questions during an emergency. OPM always posts the current operating status of the federal government for the Washington, D.C. area at http://opm.gov/status

Emergencies might be caused by nature: snow, ice, floods, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, etc. Other emergencies might arise from air pollution, power failure, interruption of public transportation, or concerns about public health or safety. In rare cases heating and cooling system failures might also qualify as emergencies. Any of the following could happen in response to emergency conditions, but you won’t be given an excused absence in every case:

Closing. If the Department’s activities close for a day or more because of emergency conditions, your absence will be excused.

Delayed Arrival. If the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announces a delayed arrival before the work day starts, you can leave home later than usual and the hours between your normal start time and your actual arrival time will be an excused absence.

OPM will specify the number of hours for the delayed start time. If it takes you even longer to arrive at work than the announced delay, the additional time will be charged to annual leave or leave without pay. However, your supervisor may give you additional excused absence to cover the delay in arrival at work if employees in similar situations are also having trouble arriving in time due to public transportation issues, etc.

Unscheduled Leave. You can take leave without prior supervisory approval when OPM announces an unscheduled leave policy. However, this is NOT an excused absence - - it will be charged to annual leave or leave without pay and you must notify your supervisor of your intention to take it.

Delayed Arrival/Unscheduled Leave. If OPM announces a combination of delayed arrival/unscheduled leave in response to emergency conditions, you may delay your arrival time or may take unscheduled leave.

Early Dismissal. If OPM announces an early dismissal during the workday your absence will be excused for the number of hours that OPM excuses. Even if OPM doesn’t announce an early dismissal, there are cases in which your supervisor may let you leave early and excuse the absence. But those are situations that would involve some hardship, such as if your young child is dismissed from school early, and there’s nobody else to take care of the child.

Emergency and Non-Emergency Employees. All the rules for emergency conditions apply to non-emergency employees, which is what most people are. Each year, operating units have to determine which – if any – of their operations have to continue in an emergency, and then designate who would be needed to carry out that work. Those people, and their alternates, are “emergency employees.” If you’re an “emergency employee”, you must report to work, or remain at work despite emergency conditions. You may also be able to perform your duties by teleworking at home or an alternative site.

Involuntary Removal

Removal or Suspension. If your removal or suspension is proposed your supervisor can put you on excused absence if they believe that having you in the workplace might constitute a threat to public property or the health and safety of coworkers or the public.

Reduction in Force. If you’ve received notice of an upcoming reduction in force, you can be given excused absence in order to interview for other jobs within the Department.

Medical and Health-Related Excused Absences

Medical Exams. If you’re required to have a medical examination in connection with your job, you’ll be granted excused absence for that purpose.

Workplace Injuries. If you’re injured on the job, you’ll be granted excused absence for immediate treatment. If you are stationed outside of the U.S. and local treatment is not available, you may be excused for whatever period is required for travel to and from the nearest medical facility for necessary treatment.

Illness at Work. If you become ill while at work, you can have up to one hour excused absence for consultation and treatment at the nearest medical facility. Also, if you’re able to work but your physician advises rest or treatment, you may be given excused absence for up to one hour a day for that purpose.

Blood Donations. You may be given excused absence of up to 4 hours to make blood donations.

Organ Donations. If you choose to donate an organ, you may be given excused absence for up to 30 days. If you make a bone marrow donation for another person, you may be given excused absence for 7 days. Find out more about organ donations.

Health and Fitness. You may be granted excused absence to participate in health and fitness activities, if the activity is:

  • sanctioned by the Secretary
  • the amount of time is short and of fixed duration, and
  • your leave-approving official agrees that your participation will benefit the organization


Travel for Leave. If you return to the U.S. from a duty station elsewhere in order to take leave, you will be granted excused absence for the travel time if you’re entitled to accumulate up to 45 days annual leave, and the travel time charged to excused absence is what is required using authorized modes of transportation. You’re only allowed excused absence for this purpose once during each tour of duty abroad.

Travel Between Duty Stations. Excused absence isn’t needed for the time you spend traveling to a new duty station, because you’re considered to be in duty status. If you extend the trip for personal reasons, the additional travel time is charged to your personal leave, or leave without pay.

Moving Arrangements Due to change in Duty Stations. If you change duty stations for Government purposes (as opposed to a transfer you request) between any locations more than 100 miles apart, you will be given excused absence to arrange the move; up to 16 hours before the move, and up to 8 hours on arrival.

Rest After Travel. If you are required to travel on government business for more than 14 hours, crossing multiple time zones and using non-premium accommodations, you may be granted excused absence the day following the travel.

Transition Leave. If you are a non-career civil service employee at an overseas post and return from abroad and exercise your reemployment rights, you be granted up to ten working days of excused absence to “transition” back to the U.S. This type of leave is to be used before reporting to a new assignment in the U.S.


In some situations, excused absence may not be justified and your absence may simply be charged to regular time or a leave category (with supervisory permission).

Tardiness. You may be excused by your leave-approving official for being late or for some other brief absence of less than one hour, if the tardiness or absence is for justifiable reasons (for example, metro delays or traffic incidents affecting a majority of employees, etc.).

Conferences. You may be granted excused absence to attend conventions, conferences, or meetings that are not directly related to your duties, if your participation will contribute to the goals of the Department.

Exams. If you are taking an examination, such as a CPA exam or Bar exam, that is directly related to your current or prospective duties, you may be granted excused absence for the purpose. You may also be granted excused absence to travel to and take other exams.