Leave, Holidays and Flexible Work Arrangements

Leave and Holidays

The federal government offers generous vacation, sick leave and holiday policies.

Federal employees start with 13 paid vacation days a year, and the number of days increases with length of service. Employees may carry up to vacation 30 days into the following year.

Length of Service Vacation Days Per Year
1 to 3 years 13 days
3 to 15 years 20 days
15 or more years 26 days


Sick Leave
Employees accumulate 13 days of paid sick leave annually, regardless of the length of service, with no limit to the amount of sick leave that can accrue. Sick leave covers medical needs, care for family members, and the birth or adoption of a child.

Federal employees get 11 days of paid holidays per year. See the 2023 federal holiday schedule.

Flexible Work Arrangements

The government offers alternative work schedules that enable individuals to set a work schedule that suits their needs.

Each agency must establish a policy on working remotely that applies to eligible employees. For more information, see a guide to telework in the federal government.

Not all agencies offer alternative work schedules, so applicants need to check if this benefit is available for a specific position.

Alternative Work Schedules
The government offers two main types of alternative work schedules to help employees balance their work and personal responsibilities: flexible work schedules and compressed work schedules.

  • Flexible Work Schedules allow employees to build a custom schedule as long as they work 40 hours a week. Agencies establish core hours of business, typically from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., during which employees are required to work. Beyond that, work may be done any time between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • Compressed Work Schedules offer the flexibility to work 40 hours a week but not necessarily over five days. Typical compressed schedules allow employees to work nine-hour days and have a three-day weekend every other week. Some agencies may allow 10-hour days, resulting in a four-day work every week.

Part-Time Work and Job Sharing
Part-time work or job sharing enables federal employees to work part of the time and continue progressing in their careers.

  • Part-time employees work less than 40 hours per week.
    Job sharing is a way for two or more part-time employees to fill the same position. An employee may work up to 32 hours a week, although it’s more common for each person sharing a job to work 20 hours a week, or two-and-a-half days each.

Federal Health, Retirement and Other Benefits

The government provides employees with a first-class benefits package. In fact, Bureau of Labor Statistics studies show the benefits gap between the private and public sectors has been growing—in favor of the public sector.

Health Care Benefits

Health Insurance
Through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), federal employees and retirees, and their families, can choose from among 200 plans—the widest selection of health insurance plans in the country—to find the best plan for their needs.

No federal health plan requires a waiting period or a medical exam to enroll, nor are there restrictions based on age or physical condition. The federal program also provides guaranteed protection that prevents health plans from canceling coverage.

Federal agencies cover the majority of health care costs—usually between 70% and 75%.

Flexible Spending Accounts
A flexible spending account enables federal employees to put aside a portion of pre-tax salary to pay for out-of-pocket expenses. The government’s Health Care Flexible Spending Account allows employees to set aside up to $2,850 annually. These funds can be used for eligible health care expenses not covered by the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, such as over-the-counter medications or health plan premiums.

Retirement Benefits

The government provides employees with a comprehensive retirement benefits package called the Federal Employees Retirement System, known as FERS—a system that includes three different contributions to employees’ retirement.

Basic Benefit Plan
Each pay period, employees pay a small amount to the Basic Benefit Plan and their agency pays 1% of their annual pay into it. This plan also provides for long-term disability and survivor benefits for spouses and children. Employees need to have worked at least five years in government to receive retirement benefits from the Basic Benefit Plan.

Thrift Savings Plan
The Thrift Savings Plan, also called the TSP, offers benefits similar to a traditional 401(k) plan. Agencies contribute 1% of each employee’s salary, whether or not an employee contributes. Agencies also match a certain amount of employees’ contributions each pay period, up to 5% of their salary.

Social Security
Social Security provides a benefit to people who are retired, unemployed or disabled and offers benefits that include disability and protection for survivors. Federal employees pay Social Security taxes and earn credit for a Social Security account.

Other Benefits

Life Insurance
The Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance program, or FEGLI, is the largest group life insurance program in the world. It covers more than 4 million current and retired federal employees and their families.

Unless coverage is waived, almost all full- and part-time federal employees are automatically enrolled in a life insurance plan equal to their salaries. No physical is required.

Employee Assistance Programs
All federal agencies offer an Employee Assistance Program, a free service to help employees address issues that negatively affect their job performance and personal health. Staffed by professional counselors, EAPs help employees overcome problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, work and family pressures, and job stress.

Child and Dependent Care
Many programs are available to federal employees for child or dependent care. Human resources representatives at agencies are the most knowledgeable about what programs are available to agency employees.

Student Loan Repayment and Forgiveness

The federal government offers assistance with educational loans through two programs: the federal student loan repayment program and the public service loan forgiveness program.

Federal Student Loan Repayment program

Agencies participating in the Federal Student Loan Repayment program may award $10,000 a year, up to a total of $60,000, toward the payment of student loans. In return, employees must work at that agency for at least three years.

All 15 Cabinet-level departments, and more than 20 independent agencies, participate in the program. Many agencies specify the types of degrees that qualify for the student loan program, tailoring their recruitment plans to attract highly qualified candidates for hard-to-fill positions.

The most common educational loans that qualify for repayment include:

People interested in federal jobs should contact individual agencies to learn more about their loan repayment programs, or check for information on agency websites.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

Through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, the government forgives the remaining balance on eligible student loans for people who have worked in a public service job for at least 10 years.

To qualify, program applicants must have already made 120 monthly payments and be employed full time in AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps or another public service organization such as:

  • The federal government or a state or local government.
  • A public child or family service agency.
  • A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
  • A private organization that provides public safety, public interest law services, public health, law enforcement or another a public service.