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Emergency leave transfer program


This policy covers the provisions of § 9004 of Public Law 105-18 and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations that provide for the transfer of annual leave to the Emergency Leave Transfer Program (ELTP) for use by employees (or the employee’s qualifying family member) in any Executive agency who are adversely affected by a major disaster or emergency as declared by the President. In some instances, where the President has not declared an emergency or disaster, OPM may delegate the authority for an agency to establish an ELTP. This authority is generally granted when an emergency or disaster affects only one agency and the agency has sufficient donated annual leave to cover all affected employees. Transferred annual leave under this policy may not by designated for individual emergency leave recipients. 


Available Paid Leave means accrued and accumulated annual leave and restored annual leave. Available paid leave does not include annual leave advanced to the employee, annual leave donated to an employee under the Leaver Transfer Program, or annual leave accrued while on donated annual leave under the Leave Transfer Program. 

Disaster or Emergency means a major disaster or emergency (e.g., floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, bombings, etc.), as declared by the President, that results in severe adverse effects for a substantial number of employees (e.g., loss of life or property, serious injury, or mental illness as a result of a direct threat to life or health). 

Emergency Leave Donor means a current employee who has made a voluntary written request to transfer annual leave to the ELTP. 

Emergency Leave Recipient means a current employee whose application to receive annual leave under the ELTP has been approved by the agency. 

Family Member means the employee’s: (1) spouse and parents; (2) children, including stepchildren and adopted children, and their spouses; (3) grandparents; (4) brothers and sisters, and their spouses; and (5) and any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. 

Basic Premises 

An employee may not directly or indirectly intimidate, threaten, or coerce any other employee or interfere with any right that an employee may have with respect to donating, receiving, or using annual leave. Such acts of coercion will be the basis for taking disciplinary action. 

False statements or other misrepresentations made in connection with an employee’s application to be an emergency leave recipient or an emergency leave donor may be cause for: disqualification from the program; disciplinary action, up to and including removal from the Federal service; criminal prosecution; and liability for the amount of leave dishonestly gained.

An emergency leave recipient may not receive more than 240 hours of donated annual leave at any one time from an ELTP or Leave Bank for each disaster or emergency. Heads of operating units have the authority to allow an employee to receive additional disbursements based on the employee’s continuing need but only after taking into consideration the amount of donated annual leave available to all approved emergency leave recipients and the individual needs of those recipients. 

An emergency leave recipient may not receive donated leave for any period that is covered by unemployment benefits or worker's compensation. 

Employees may not apply for the ELTP until the disaster or emergency actually starts and is declared as such by the President. 

Persons involved in the ELTP are responsible for guarding the privacy of emergency leave recipients and emergency leave donors. Communications with either group must be kept confidential. No information should be revealed to anyone (including to a recipient who wishes to thank donors) who does not have a need to know or to anyone without the written and specific permission of the person whose privacy will be bypassed. Individuals granted access must be advised of the requirements of this paragraph. 


To be eligible for the ELTP, an employee or an employee’s family member must be adversely affected by a major disaster or emergency that causes severe hardship to the employee or the employee’s family member to such a degree that the employee’s absence from work is required. An emergency leave recipient may only use donated annual leave to care for a family member if that family member has no reasonable access to other forms of assistance. 

Application to be an Emergency Leave Recipient 

A potential emergency leave recipient must complete OPM Form 1637, “Application to Become a Leave Recipient Under the ELTP.” The application must contain:
• The name, position title, pay plan, and grade or pay level of the potential emergency leave recipient;
• A statement describing the employee’s need for participation in the program; and
• The major disaster or emergency declared by the President and the nature and severity of the major disaster or emergency as it relates to the applicant.

If an employee is not capable of making written application for participation in the ELTP, a personal representative of the employee may make written application on the employee’s behalf. The written application must indicate the relationship of the signer to the potential recipient.

For an application to be considered for approval, an employee or a personal representative must submit the application within 30 calendar days of the establishment of the ELTP by the Department. 

Disposition of Application to be a Recipient

Supervisory Responsibilities. Consistent with responsibility for leave approval, supervisors are responsible for reviewing a potential emergency leave recipient’s application to ensure that all information on the application is correct and true and that the employee or employee’s family member is adversely affected by the major disaster or emergency. 

Departmental Responsibilities

The Leave Administrator in the Departmental Office of Human Resources Management will act as the liaison between Commerce agencies and OPM when a Commerce agency or an outside agency does not have sufficient amounts of donated annual leave to meet the needs of their approved emergency leave recipients. The Leave Administrator is also responsible for:

  • Coordinating with OPM, the transfer of donated annual leave
  • From employees of other Executive agencies for use by employees of Commerce agencies; and
  • From employees of Commerce agencies to OPM for use by employees of other Executive agencies.
  • Coordinating Commerce-wide employee notification of the need for donated annual leave by Commerce employees or employees of other Executive agencies; 
  • Notifying OPM of the total amount of donated annual leave needed for transfer to its approved emergency leave recipients via OPM Form 1639, “Transfer of Donated Annual Leave To or From the Emergency Leave Transfer Program;” 
  • Determining the amount of donated annual leave that will be transferred to each Commerce agency for use by its emergency leave recipients (amounts may vary based on individual needs);
  • Notifying affected SHROs of the amount of donated annual leave available for transfer to emergency leave recipients, and coordinating such transfers with SHRO leave representatives; and
  • Coordinating the return of unused donated annual leave to OPM for restoration to employees of other Executive agencies or employees of Commerce agencies. 

Servicing Human Resources Office (SHRO) Responsibilities

The SHRO is responsible for quality-checking a sample of the emergency leave recipients’ applications to confirm that they are complete and consistent, and that all eligibility criteria have been met. The SHRO is also responsible for:

  • Determining whether, and how much, donated annual leave is needed for their affected employees and notifying the Departmental Leave Administrator of the need;
  • Determining and notifying the Departmental Leave Administrator of the amount of donated annual leave available for transfer to OPM for use by employees of other Executive agencies; 
  • Approving potential emergency leave donors and potential emergency leave recipients;
  • Facilitating the distribution of donated annual leave to approved emergency leave recipients and from emergency leave donors via employee time and attendance (T&A) reports and the automated personnel/payroll system;
  • Restoring unused donated annual leave to the annual leave accounts of approved emergency leave donors. 

Within 10 calendar days (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal public holidays) after the complete application was received, the SHRO will notify the applicant or the applicant’s personal representative and the applicant's leave-approving official in writing (including e-mail) that the application is approved. The same procedures must be followed if the application is denied and the reasons for disapproval must be provided. 

Application to be an Emergency Leave Donor

Employees who wish to donate a specific number of hours of annual leave to the ELTP must complete OPM Form 1638, “Request to Donate Annual Leave Under the Emergency Leave Transfer,” and submit it to the SHRO. Donations of annual leave must be made in whole-hour increments and the minimum donation is one hour.

Disposition of Application to be an Emergency Leave Donor

The prospective donor’s SHRO must review the donor’s application to determine that:
• The donor’s application is complete, signed, and dated;
• The donor has sufficient leave to make the donation; and
• The limitations in this policy have been observed, unless a waiver has been approved.

Leave Donations from Other Federal Agencies 

The transfer of annual leave from an ELTP to approved emergency leave recipients of other Executive agencies will be accepted if the amount of annual leave donated by Commerce emergency leave donors does not meet the needs of approved leave recipients as requested and approved. Donated annual leave may be transferred from a leave bank to an ELTP administered by another agency during a Government-wide transfer of annual leave. 

Leave Donations to Employees of Other Federal Agencies

The transfer of annual leave from Commerce emergency leave donors to an ELTP will be permitted if the amount of annual leave requested and approved for use by other Federal employees in insufficient to meet their needs. Leave donations are permitted between employees of Executive branch and Judicial branch employees. OPM will coordinate such transfers with the leave administrator of each agency. 

Before an employee of the Department can effectively donate annual leave to an ELTP, the donor’s SHRO must verify that the donor has the available leave and debit the donor’s annual leave account on the T&A report and the automated personnel/payroll system.

Restoration of Unused Donated Leave 

If, at the end of a major disaster or emergency, unused transferred leave remains in the emergency leave recipient’s account, the SHRO must arrange to have the leave returned to the donor’s account following the guidelines later described in this policy.

Limitations on Donations 

Approving officials have the discretion to allow all or part of an emergency leave donor's donation of annual leave. A donor may donate only unused annual leave or restored annual leave that is in his or her account at the time of the donation. 

In any one leave year, an emergency leave donor may not donate more than 104 hours of annual leave or restored annual leave. However, that cap is subject to a waiver (see below).

Waiver of Limitations on Donations 

SHRO Directors have the authority to grant waivers of the above limitations for annual leave donations when it is anticipated that insufficient donations will be received from Commerce emergency leave donors or from donors of other Executive and/or Judicial branch agencies. Waivers may not be granted solely to avoid annual leave forfeiture at the end of the leave year. Waivers must be in writing (or e-mail) and include a description of the circumstance. 

NOTE: Annual leave donated to an Emergency Leave Transfer Program may not be applied against the limitation on the donation of annual leave under the voluntary leave transfer or leave bank programs.

Use of Transferred Leave

An employee must use donated annual leave for the purposes related to the major disaster or emergency for which the recipient was approved. 

Liquidating indebtedness. Donated annual leave may be used on a current basis or applied retroactively to the beginning date of the major disaster or emergency, regardless of when it commenced, to liquidate an indebtedness for advanced annual leave or sick leave or to substitute for periods of leave without pay due to the adverse effects of the major disaster or emergency. When using donated annual leave on a current basis, it must be applied to the employee’s annual leave account and not the sick leave account. 

Supervisory approval. Use of donated annual leave must have supervisory approval as with any other form of leave. Moreover, it is subject to the same conditions and requirements as regularly accrued annual leave and is subject to the annual maximum carryover limitation. 

Disposition on transfer to another agency. When a leave recipient transfers to another Federal agency, any unused donated annual leave will be transferred with the employee. Form SF-1150, “Record of Leave Data,” will be used to effect the transfer of unused donated annual leave. 

Advanced annual or sick leave. The leave approving official may advance an emergency leave recipient annual or sick leave so that the emergency leave recipient is not forced to use his or her accrued leave before donated annual leave becomes available. This is true even if the employee has available annual and sick leave. 

Prohibitions.  Transferred annual leave may not be:

  • Transferred to a specific emergency leave recipient;
  • Included in a lump sum payment; 
  • Made available for recredit upon reemployment of an emergency leave donor or emergency leave recipient by a Federal agency; or 
  • Allowed to remain on the agency’s rolls to establish initial eligibility for immediate retirement (including discontinued service or voluntary early retirement) and for continuance of health benefits. 

Accruals of Annual and Sick Leave While on Donated Leave 

An emergency leave recipient accrues annual and sick leave while on donated leave just as any employee does who is in a pay status and subject to the Leave Act. 

Termination of Major Disaster or Emergency

An emergency leave recipient’s status ends under the following conditions, whichever occurs earliest:

  • When the agency or OPM determines that the major disaster or emergency has terminated;
  • At the end of the biweekly pay period in which the emergency leave recipient or his or her personal representative notifies the SHRO that he or she is no longer affected by the major disaster; 
  • At the end of the biweekly pay period in which the SHRO determines, after written or e-mail notice from the agency and an opportunity for the emergency leave recipient (or his or her personal representative) to answer orally or in writing, that the emergency leave recipient is no longer affected by the major disaster or emergency; 
  • At the end of the biweekly pay period in which the Department is notified of OPM’s approval of the emergency leave recipient's application for disability retirement; or 
  • When the leave recipient's Federal employment is terminated (resignation, retirement, or death).

Restoration of Donated Annual Leave 

Any donated annual leave remaining to the credit of an emergency leave recipient when the major disaster or emergency ends, must be restored to the annual leave accounts of all emergency leave donors and/or to the donating leave bank, unless specified below. 

The amount of unused donated annual leave to be restored to each emergency leave donor and/or leave bank must be proportional to the amount of annual leave donated by the employee to the ELTP. The amount will be determined as follows:

  • Divide the remaining number of hours of unused transferred annual leave by the total number of hours of annual leave transferred to the ELTP from all Departmental donors who are not excluded from consideration; 
  • Multiply the result by the number of hours of annual leave transferred by each donor not excluded from consideration; 
  • Round-up or down as appropriate based on the fractional amount after the decimal period (i.e., .55 or more round up or .54 or less round down) and restore the leave to the nearest hour to those emergency leave donors and/or leave banks not excluded below.
  • Any unused annual leave remaining after the restoration must be forfeited. In addition, all redistributed leave must be returned to its point of origin; i.e., if all the leave was donated from a leave bank, the leave must be redistributed to that leave bank. 

If an emergency leave donor retires from Federal service, dies, or is otherwise separated from Federal service before the date unused donated annual leave can be restored, no leave will be restored to that donor nor will the donor be included in the above distribution computation. Unused donated leave shall be restored to emergency leave donors who have transferred to or are employed by other Federal agencies to the extent administratively feasible. 

  • the election of the emergency leave donor, the employee may choose to have the agency 
  • unused donated annual leave by crediting the restored annual leave to the emergency 
  • donor’s annual leave account in either the current leave year or the first pay period of the 
  • leave year.

Annual leave donated to the ELTP for a specific major disaster or emergency may not be transferred to another ELTP for a different major disaster or emergency. 

Transferred annual leave restored to the account of an emergency leave donor may not be restored in excess of the annual maximum leave accrual as specified in the annual leave policy. 

In no case shall the amount of annual leave restored to an emergency leave donor exceed the amount transferred to the ELTP by the emergency leave donor.

Emergency Leave Transfer Files 

Files maintained for this program constitute a system of records under the Privacy Act. Files must be maintained in the emergency leave recipient's personnel office and must be kept separate from other personnel files.

The following documents must be kept in the leave transfer file of each leave recipient:

  • Emergency leave recipient application and all supporting documentation;
  • Emergency leave donor application(s);
  • Copies of the recipient’s time and attendance reports for all pay periods during which the emergency leave recipient participates in the program;
  • Written notice of termination of the major disaster or emergency from the emergency leave recipient to his or her supervisor and the SHRO; 
  • Requests for extensions and approvals of extensions; and
  • Any other records on the amount of annual leave donated (to facilitate leave restoration) and/or correspondence associated with the case.

Case files may be destroyed one year following the year in which the case is closed. 

(Last Updated: September 20, 2017)