514 Leave Without Pay

514.1 Essential Features

The following definitions apply for the purposes of 514:

  1. LWOP is an authorized absence from duty in a nonpay status.
  2. LWOP may be granted upon the employee’s request and covers only those hours that the employee would normally work or for which the employee would normally be paid. FLSA–exempt employees must take LWOP in 1–day increments except when they are taking leave protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  3. LWOP is different from AWOL (absent without leave), which is a nonpay status due to a determination that no kind of leave can be granted either because (1) the employee did not obtain advance authorization or (2) the employee’s request for leave was denied.

514.2 Policy

514.21 Restriction

LWOP in excess of 2 years is not approved unless specifically provided for in postal policy or regulations.

514.22 Administrative Discretion

Each request for LWOP is examined closely, and a decision is made based on the needs of the employee, the needs of the Postal Service, and the cost to the Postal Service. The granting of LWOP is a matter of administrative discretion and is not granted on the employee’s demand except as provided in collective bargaining agreements or as follows:

  1. A disabled veteran is entitled to LWOP, if necessary, for medical treatment.
  2. A Reservist or a National Guardsman is entitled to LWOP, if necessary, to perform military training duties under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), Public Law 103–353.
  3. An employee who requests and is entitled to time off under 515, Absence for Family Care or Serious Health Condition of Employee, must be allowed up to a total of 12 workweeks of absence within a Postal Service leave year for one or more of the reasons listed in 515.41(a) through 515.41(e), and up to 26 workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for covered service members with a serious injury or illness.
514.23 Condition

In granting approval for extended LWOP, the granting official should have reasonable expectation that the employee will return at the end of the approved period.

514.24 Leave Credit Adjustment

Employees who are on LWOP for a period, or periods, totaling 80 hours (normal number of workhours in 1 pay period) during a leave year have their leave credits reduced by the amount of leave earned in 1 pay period.

Exception: Employees who (1) are in leave category 6, (2) are not on LWOP for the entire year, and (3) whose accumulated LWOP reaches 80 hours in the last pay period in a leave year have their leave balance reduced by only 6 hours, even if they earn 10 hours during that pay period (see 512.3). Also, no adjustment is made to the leave computation date for periods of LWOP taken for active military service or while absent due to an illness or injury approved by OWCP.

514.25 Other Employment

LWOP is not granted for the purpose of enabling an employee to “try out” or to accept other employment.

514.3 Authority to Approve

514.31 Installation Head

Installation heads may approve requests for LWOP that are not in excess of 1 year.

514.32 District Managers

District managers may approve requests for LWOP that are not in excess of 2 years.

514.4 Acceptable Reasons and Instructions

See Exhibit 514.4 for acceptable reasons and instructions for LWOP.

Exhibit 514.4 

Acceptable Reasons and Instructions for LWOP


Acceptable Reasons for LWOP


  1. Personal reasons.

LWOP may be granted to cover the absence.

  1. Employee has no leave to cover vacation during choice vacation period.

LWOP may be granted to cover the absence.

  1. Full-time attendance at a college or university.
  1. Restricted to full–time employee.
  2. An official transcript of courses taken must be submitted to the installation head.
  1. Personal illness or injury (also see 515).
  1. An employee may utilize annual and/or sick leave in conjunction with LWOP, subject to approval of the leave in accordance with normal leave approval procedures. An employee need not exhaust annual leave and/or sick leave before requesting leave without pay.
  2. A medical document from the attending physician or practitioner must be obtained before approval, the same as for sick leave.
  3. Applications for LWOP to cover a period in excess of 30 days in any 1 year in cases of illness or injury are reviewed and acted upon by the installation head.
  4. An employee normally will not be separated from the service because of absence due to personal illness or injury for a period of less than 1 year (also see 568). An employee may be separated if required to be absent for more than 1 year unless there is cause to expect recovery and return within a reasonable time after the end of 1 year in LWOP status.
  5. The separation of an employee after 1 year of continued absence with or without pay does not prevent an eligible employee from filing an application for retirement (also see 568).
  1. Injury in line of duty.
  1. Supervisors must advise employees of their right to file an application for FECA benefits as a result of illness or injury that is suffered in the line of duty. (See instructions on CA–1 and CA–2a for traumatic injuries and CA–2 for occupational illnesses and diseases.)
  2. In traumatic injury cases, an employee is entitled to a maximum of 45 calendar days of continuation of pay (COP) without charge to leave if written notice of injury is filed within 30 days of injury. The period of COP begins at the start of the employee’s first full tour of duty thereafter, or the first day following the disability, whichever occurs sooner. The period during which 45 days of COP may be claimed must begin within 90 days of the occurrence of the injury but may end after 90 days from the occurrence. If, after returning to work subsequent to an apparent recovery from a traumatic injury, an employee is again absent from work as a result of the original traumatic injury, the employee may use any remaining COP time left up to the 45–day limit. However, the remaining COP time must be used within 90 days of the date the employee first returns to work following the initial traumatic injury.
  3. An employee may choose sick or annual leave in lieu of COP; however, this leave may be retroactively converted to COP provided a request is made within 1 year of the date the leave was used or the date of the claim approval, whichever is later.
  4. Before being placed on LWOP, an employee may choose to use annual or sick leave until it is exhausted. Leave is earned during that part of a pay period in which the employee is in pay status.
  5. On favorable adjudication of a claim by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), LWOP may be substituted for a period of sick and/or annual leave so that the employee may accept disability compensation for the period of absence.
  6. On favorable adjudication of a claim by OWCP, current employees may be permitted to buy back the leave that they used while awaiting adjudication (see 545.84). If the injury is a traumatic injury, only leave used after the end of the 45–day COP period may be bought back. OWCP does not restrict the amount of leave hours an employee may buy back. However, Postal Service regulations do not permit employees to carry–over into the next leave year more than the allowable maximum number of hours of annual leave (see 512.12). When an employee buys back annual leave in the previous year in an amount that exceeds the applicable maximum carry–over, such excess will be automatically forfeited. For every 80 hours of leave bought back and changed to LWOP, both annual and sick leave must be adjusted by the amount earned in a pay period.
  1. Family care (see 515).

An eligible employee may request and must be allowed up to a total of 12 workweeks of absence during a Postal Service leave year for one or more of the reasons listed in 515.41a through 515.41e(a) through 515.41(e) and up to 26 workweeks during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.

  1. Military duty for scheduled drills or for periods of training.

An employee enlisted under the Reserve Forces Act of 1955 who has completed the initial period of active duty training of not less than 3 months or more than 6 months may be granted LWOP for scheduled drills or periods of training.

  1. Military duty for any purpose, training or otherwise.

Eligible members of the National Guard or reserve components of the Armed Forces who are ordered to active duty for training or for any other purposes, for a specified period of time not to exceed 1 year, but in excess of the total time allowable under military leave and annual leave are granted LWOP.

  1. Employee elected to devote full–time service as a national president to an organization of supervisory or other managerial personnel (see 416.3).
  1. LWOP normally does not exceed 2 consecutive years coinciding with the elected term of office.
  2. The employee requests in writing, through the appropriate management structure, that the vice president of Labor Relations grant the employee LWOP during tenure of presidency for the purpose of serving as resident president of an employee organization in Washington, D.C., in a full–time capacity.
  3. If LWOP is granted, the employee continues to be eligible for appropriate fringe benefits during that period.
  4. The vice president of Labor Relations reserves the right to deny the request for LWOP if it is determined that the position must be filled on a permanent basis, unencumbered by an individual on prolonged leave.
  1. Union business.

See applicable provisions of current collective bargaining agreement.

  1. Postmaster elected as an organization officer, other than the president.

An employee holding a national office in one of the postmaster organizations must use annual leave or LWOP for absences to conduct business for the organization.

  1. Absence on worked holiday.

If an employee shown to be eligible in 434.422 elects to receive annual leave credit in lieu of holiday leave pay (see 512.65), LWOP may be granted to supplement work hours, up to the limit of the employee’s regular work schedule, on the holiday worked.

514.5 Forms Required

514.51 PS Form 3971

A request for LWOP is submitted by the employee on PS Form 3971. If the request for leave indicates that the LWOP will extend over 30 days, a written justification and statement of reason for the desired absence is required.

514.52 PS Form 50

PS Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, is prepared when LWOP is in excess of 30 days (see Handbook EL–301, Guidelines for Processing Personnel Actions).