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I really am interested in how someone could be 10 weeks from the end of the year and yet still going to lose vacation pay as the result of a use-it-or-lose-it policy.

I don't know how it plays out in government, but here's how it played out in private industry for me:

Dateline 2009. Existing policy allowed employees to carry over 20% of their PTO days to next year. Because PTO is used for sick time as well as vacation, prudent employees made it a practice to bank the maximum they could, in case they got sick late in the year. Then Stuff Happened.

1Q09 results were bad, and the employer announced a mandatory furlough of 4 days per quarter for the last three quarters of the year. That was about a 6% pay cut for salaried employees, with compensation in the form of additional time off. But the work still had to get done.

Policy changed to not allow carry forward at the end of the year. That meant someone who had banked 5 PTO days as a historical practice now had 17 additional days to use, and still had to get all his work done.

Near the end of the 3rd quarter, a major acquisition was announced. That meant that some of those salaried employees with 17 extra days had extra work to get done in connection with the acquisition. So . . . they could take their allowed time, and fail to get the job done. Or they could pretend to take their allowed time, and do a lot of work on nominal days off. Or they could lose some days.

I managed to use all my days off that year, with minimal interruption of work on my days off; but I was still *very* busy on the days I worked with acquisition prep work. I know people whose additional workload from the pre-acquisition activity made it impossible to use all the days. Some of them had planned significant time off in December from early in the year, but got to late October and knew they couldn't afford to take all the time they had planned.

My best guess about what is going on in the government now: Folks who had planned time off late in the year now have to deal with a backlog created by two weeks of inactivity preceded by a couple weeks of routine activity being sidelined by shutdown planning. There's an extra month of routine work to make up, and in government it won't be nearly as efficiently made up or ditched as it would be with most private employers. As a result, people who want to get the work done could lose some planned time off.

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