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New Federal Sick Leave Proposals for Flu, War

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 4:22 p.m. ET

The government may soon extend new leave policies to federal employees actively providing care to family members stricken by communicable diseases, including the H1N1 flu. Similar proposals call for extending, to up to 26 weeks, unpaid leave to employees providing care to a spouse or family member stricken by injury or illness while serving in the military.

Under regulations proposed Wednesday by the Office of Personnel Management in the Federal Register, federal employees would be eligible to use accrued or accumulated sick leave if a doctor or other health official determines that a caretaker's presence in the workplace might jeopardize the health of co-workers.

The proposal states that employees must be providing daily care for the affected family member and may request up to 104 hours of sick leave before doctors determine the family member has contracted a communicable disease. At that point, employees could use as much as 12 weeks of sick leave each year to care for the family member.

The rules applies only to serious communicable diseases where federal quarantine or isolation rules apply, such as cholera, plague, yellow fever or pandemic flu. OPM is seeking guidance on whether it should add other diseases to the list.

OPM has also proposed granting 26 weeks of unpaid leave per year to employees actively caring for service members with injuries or illnesses suffered in the line of duty. The regulation would apply to current members of the Armed Forces undergoing medical treatment, recuperation or therapy on an inpatient or outpatient basis, as well as those on the temporary disability-retired list. The proposal would allow employees to swap annual or sick leave for any of those 26 weeks.

The latest proposed regulation related to military families follows OPM’s decision to grant federal agencies optional direct-hiring authority for the spouses of military servicemembers. That rule applies to the spouses of military service members relocating for a new assignment, some physically disabled spouses, and those whose husband or wife was killed in the line of duty.

Comments about the new proposed regulations are due to OPM by Oct. 26.

By Ed O'Keefe  | August 26, 2009; 1:42 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Workplace Issues  
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