Skip to main content
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
USDA FAQ's and resources about coronavirus (COVID-19).  LEARN MORE

Use or Lose Leave


Points to Remember for Use/Lose Annual Leave

What is "Use or Lose" leave?

Many Federal employees begin each leave year with a balance of 240 hours of annual leave. Because leave over the 240 hour limit must be used by the end of pay period 26 of each leave year, this leave is commonly referred to as "use or lose annual leave." If the leave is not used, in most situations, it is permanently lost. In certain circumstances, use or lose annual leave may be restored.

Deadline for Scheduling Use or Lose Leave

Use or lose annual leave must be scheduled, in writing, before the beginning of the third pay period before the end of the leave year. Typically this is pay period 23.

Recommended Leave Usage Order

HRD recommends that employees use paid leave in the following order:

  • Use or Lose Annual Leave
  • Compensatory Time Off in Lieu of Overtime Pay
  • Compensatory Time Off for Travel (CTOT)
  • Annual Leave or Credit Hours

Note: Use sick leave, as appropriate.

Note: MRP policy states that use or lose leave may not be restored if, at any time during the leave year, compensatory time was used instead of use or lose annual leave. This does not include CTOT.

Supervisory Cancellation of Scheduled Use or Lose Annual Leave

If an operational emergency exists, supervisors may cancel previously scheduled use or lose annual leave. The cancellation must:

  • Be in writing or via email;
  • Clearly identify the reason(s) for the cancellation, i.e., explain the operational emergency - in detail;
  • Clearly identify the specific date(s) and hour(s) canceled; and,

Have higher-level supervisory concurrence i.e., signature and date on the cancellation letter or email.

What about sick employees?

Sick employees are still responsible for scheduling use or lose annual leave. This requirement remains even if the employee later substitutes sick leave for the previously scheduled annual leave.

Four Reasons When Lost Use or Lose Leave May Be Restored

  • Operational emergency (exigency of the public business),
  • Illness,
  • Administrative error, or
  • Unjustified personnel action.

Who has the authority to approve leave restorations? 

Programs may only restore leave lost due to operational emergencies. Approval authority has been delegated to:

  • AMS: Administrator, Associate Administrator, Deputy Administrators, and Program/Staff Directors
  • APHIS: Administrator, Activity Heads, Directors (regional, Lab, & Division Directors)
  • GIPSA: Administrator, Deputy Administrators, and Division Directors

This authority may not be redelegated.

Send requests for restorations based on illness, administrative error or unjustified personnel action to the Assistant HR Director, 4700 River Rd., Riverdale, MD 20737.

Steps for Restoring Lost Leave

Leave may be considered for restoration beginning pay period 1 of the new leave year. Leave may not be restored before pay period 1 of each new leave year.

Step Who Does What:
1 Timekeeper Beginning pay period 1 of the new leave year, prepares the leave audit. The audit must include annual leave and compensatory time for the entire leave year. An employee may not prepare his/her own leave audit.
2 Employee

Gathers the necessary supporting documentation. Documents required:

  • OPM 71, screen shot of webTA approval, or equivalent
  • Written cancellation letter showing higher level concurrence
  • T&A sign in/out sheets for pay periods leave was cancelled (if used)
  • Copies of the webTA Certified T&A's for pay periods leave was cancelled
  • T&A sign in/out sheet for pay period 26 (if used)
  • A copy of the webTA Certified T&A for pay period 26
  • Leave audit signed by the timekeeper or supervisor, reflecting annual leave and comp time off in lieu of overtime


For additional information.

3 Employee Forwards the documentation through the chain of command to the resource management staff.
4 Resource Management Staff (RMS)

Note: The letter must contain the following information:

  • Statement approving or denying the restoration request.
  • Basis for approving the request, i.e., operational emergency.
  • Reason(s) why the request is denied, if appropriate.
  • Amount(s) of lost leave that will be restored.
  • Date by which the restored leave must be used. Click here for examples (PDF) on how to determine this date.


5 Approving Official Approves the restoration by signing the approval letter and the AD-Form 582 or disapproves the request.
6 Approving Official
If . . . Then..
Denying the request The approving official or RMS sends the letter to
the employee with a copy to the employee's 
Approving the request

The approving official or RMS sends the 
servicing personnel office, the employee, 
the supervisor and the timekeeper:

  • A copy of the approval letter and
  • The AD-582

Annual Use/Lose Reminders

Each year, the annual reminder is posted here. In addition, headquarters Resource Management Staffs are sent reminders via email for distribution to all employees.

Complementary Content