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Performance management handbook (recognition) - chapter 13

Chapter 13. Time Off Awards


The Time Off Award Program implements the provisions of Section 201 of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990, which authorized agencies to grant employees time off in recognition of certain accomplishments or contributions. The authority is regulated by 5 CFR Part 451.


A Time Off Award means an excused absence granted to an employee without charge to leave or loss of pay. Scheduling of time off is subject to supervisory approval. Before utilizing the Time Off Award Program, managers should consider the full resource implications of the award, including:

  • Salary of employee, and 
  • Impact on workload and customer service. 


All employees of the Department are eligible for time off awards except: 

  • Presidential appointees; 
  • Employees who do not have a regular, established tour of duty prescribed in advance, (i.e., intermittent or WAE employees); 
  • Employees paid on a fee basis; 
  • Commissioned officers of the NOAA Corps; 
  • Employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES and Senior Foreign Service (SFS) and 
  • Employees whose current rating of record under one of the Department's performance appraisal systems is less than Level 3 (or its equivalent). 

Examples of Eligible Contributions 

Time Off Awards are intended to recognize the following types of accomplishments or contributions:

  • Making a high quality contribution involving a difficult or important project or assignment; 
  • Displaying initiative and skill in completing an assignment or project before the deadline; 
  • Using initiative and creativity in making improvements in products, activities, programs, or services; or 
  • Ensuring the mission of the work unit is accomplished during a difficult period by successfully completing additional work or an additional project assignment while maintaining the employee's own workload. 

Use of Time Off

Time off granted as an incentive award must be scheduled and taken within 1 year after the date the award is made (i.e., the date of the SF-50 effecting the award, normally the first day of the first pay period following final approval of the award). If the time is not taken off within 1 year, it is lost and may not be restored. No other award or compensation may be substituted.

If an employee is incapacitated for duty during a period of time off as an incentive award, that period may be recorded as sick leave, and the time off scheduled for another time, within the1 year limitation.

Processing of Time Off Awards

Time off awards must be recommended and approved electronically through HR Connect, and include the appropriate award documentation/narrative justification. The Form CD-326, Recommendation for Recognition is no longer required. Detailed instructions on processing the actions and record keeping are presented in Personnel/Payroll Processing note issuances. The time off taken by the employee must be documented on the webTA as a "Time Off as an Incentive Award".


For a full-time employee, the total amount of time granted as an incentive award during a leave year may not exceed 80 hours. For a part-time employee or an employee with an uncommon tour of duty, the total time off granted, during a leave year as an incentive award may not exceed the average number of hours of work in the employee's biweekly scheduled tour of duty.

Time off granted as an incentive award, for any single contribution by a full-time employee, may not exceed 40 hours. For part-time employees or employees with an uncommon tour of duty, the limit for any single contribution is one-half the maximum that may be granted during the leave year. 

The minimum time off award is a half day (half of the scheduled work hours for the employee on the day of the excused absence). 

The amount of time off granted must be proportionate to the value of the contribution being recognized. Appendix C in this Handbook may be used as a guide to compare the value of the contribution to the value of the time off granted. Appendix C need not be rigorously followed, but serves as a broad benchmark for setting award amounts.

Time off awards may not be converted to cash nor transferred from Commerce to another agency, nor the reverse.

Delegation of Approval Authority 

Authority to approve time off awards is hereby delegated to Secretarial Officers and Heads of Operating Units. This authority may be redelegated. Any redelegation of this authority must be documented in writing before the authority may be exercised. 

Authority to grant up to a full day of time off as an incentive award may be delegated to any leave approving official of the Department. A full day is the length of the normal work day for the particular employee being recognized on the day that the time off is given. Time off of more than 1 day must be reviewed and approved by an official at a higher organizational level than the manager or supervisor who initiated the award nomination.