If it is any comfort to private sector employers, when it comes to managing an employee’s entitlement to time off under a myriad of legal requirements and internal personnel policies, the federal government, as an employer, faces similar challenges. On December 3, the Office of Personnel Management issued final regulations addressing the use of sick leave for exposure to a communicable disease, a new “advanced sick leave” policy, and substitution of sick leave for FMLA to care for a seriously injured or ill covered service member. Twenty pages of discussion precede the two pages of new regulations, which illustrates what all employers have come to know—to state each entitlement is the easy part; to determine how the various laws applicable in a particular situation work together is the real challenge.

The discussion is proof that the most fundamental requirement to being successful in managing employee leaves, to making sure that employees receive their “entitlements” under both internal policies and the ever-increasing number of leave laws, is to have “peripheral vision,” to know all the various laws and policies that may apply in a given situation, to be able to weed out those that do not apply, to administer the leave to satisfy the requirements of those that do, and to defend any legal claim that might arise with confidence and documentation.    

The OPM’s table of the five sources of entitlements for federal employees to care for a family member or covered servicemember illustrates that the federal government, as an employer, is focused on peripheral vision as well. The examples of the interaction between sick leave and FMLA leave in the discussion  apply that vision to situations which private sector employees face regularly.  

So at least on this topic, do both the private sector and the federal government, as an employer, have the same challenges? Well, not quite. The private sector has the additional challenges of state and local leave laws.