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Employees Who Are Not Working or Not Teleworking Due to an Office Closure​

Page last updated April 13, 2020 -  6:30 p.m.

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​1. Can the Commonwealth require employees to use leave if state offices are closed? 

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Yes. Management Directive 530.17 gives the Secretary of Administration the authority to require employees to use leave for any office closing longer than two (2) consecutive days.  

Your available leave options are outlined below.

​2. Can I apply for unemployment compensation?

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As a commonwealth employee, you have the option of using paid or unpaid leave while you are unable to work or telework.  Depending on your specific circumstances, if you elect to use paid leave during all or part of a week, it may impact the amount of unemployment compensation you may receive.  You can find more information at www.uc.pa.gov.

When deciding whether to use your available paid leave or instead file for unemployment compensation, please keep in mind that paid leave is available immediately to you.  It typically takes 2 - 4 weeks to begin to receive unemployment compensation benefits.

​3. Do I need to use all my paid leave before applying for unemployment compensation?

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​No, Commonwealth employees do not need to use their paid leave before applying for unemployment compensation.  

​4. Will commonwealth health care coverage continue for employees while they are receiving unemployment compensation? How will employee health care costs be paid while employees are on unemployment compensation? Will health care benefits continue uninterrupted when employees return to commonwealth employment?

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​While the Office of Administration does not make unemployment compensation determinations, we can tell you that health care coverage will continue for employees while they are receiving unemployment compensation benefits, provided they continue to pay their employee contributions. Employees who are on an unpaid absence for greater than one full pay period will receive a monthly invoice from the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF). Payments must be made directly to the PEBTF by the due date to continue coverage. You can continue to use the same identification cards.

​5. Are employees required to use a certain amount of paid leave each pay period to retain their health care benefits?

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​No. However, employees who elect to use paid and unpaid leave within the same pay period are encouraged to review their pay statements and consider the impact on their net pay. All payroll deductions, including health care and voluntary payroll deductions, will be taken each pay period. Employees who would like to stop any deductions should contact the HR Service Center at 866.377.2672.

​6. How does unemployment compensation affect my retirement? Will money be withheld for retirement while on unemployment compensation?

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​Employees who elect to use unpaid leave and receive unemployment compensation will not receive retirement credit under the State Employees’ Retirement Code for that time. Please contact SERS for more information.

​7. Will I lose my seniority if I chose to take a leave without pay (LWOP) with benefits absence? Will people with less seniority continue to accrue seniority if they choose to use paid leave?

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​Employees who elect to use unpaid leave will not receive seniority credit for those hours. However, no employee will “lose” accrued seniority credit. Employees who elect to use paid leave will receive seniority credit for those hours.

​8. What if unemployment compensation determines I am not eligible for benefits? Can I go back and change the unpaid absences to paid leave at that point?

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​While the Office of Administration does not make unemployment compensation determinations, we can tell you that requests to use paid leave on a retroactive basis are considered with proof of the unemployment compensation denial.

​9. If I receive COVID-19 unemployment compensation, will I still be covered under FMLA or does that coverage end?

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​If you are currently not working due to an FMLA absence, according to the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, if you are not able to work when work is available to you, you are generally not eligible for unemployment compensation. Your eligibility will depend on whether the facts that you had good cause for not working. These determinations are made by the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation.

​10. How do I get my wage and date of hire information to file for unemployment compensation?

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​Please call the HR Service Center at 866.377.2672 from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

​11. Am I guaranteed to not lose my job while using FMLA-designated leave? Does applying for unemployment compensation forfeit my position with the Commonwealth? Am I less likely to be called back to work if I am on unemployment compensation?

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​Receiving unemployment compensation will have no impact on an employee’s continued employment status once the Governor’s State of Emergency due to COVID-19 is lifted and offices are reopened.

​12. What commonwealth positions are not eligible for unemployment compensation (exempt)?

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​Employees who are exempt from unemployment compensation received a notice when they were hired. Employees can review their most recent pay statement under “Taxes.” Employees who are not eligible for unemployment compensation will NOT have a deduction for “TX EE Unemployment Tax.” Employees who have this deduction are eligible to file a claim for unemployment compensation.

​13. I'm filing my initial unemployment compensation claim and I’m being asked for my "Employer Unemployment Compensation Account Number.” Where can I obtain this?

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​You may obtain this number from the HR Service Center at 866.377.2672 from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

​14. Can I apply for unemployment compensation in advance of starting leave without pay (LWOP) with benefits so there is no gap in my income?

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​According to the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, you should file for unemployment compensation the first week that your income is reduced. Do not apply in anticipation of beginning LWOP, because your claim may be denied or delayed.

​15. If work is offered to me, and I turn it down in favor of leave without pay (LWOP) with benefits, does that disqualify me from collecting unemployment compensation?

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According to the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, if you refuse to work when work is available to you and you are able to perform that work, you are generally not eligible for unemployment compensation. Your eligibility will depend on whether the facts of your refusal demonstrate that you had good cause for turning down work. These determinations are made by the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation.

​16. If the unemployment compensation approval process is prolonged – 3 or 4 weeks – am I able to switch back to paid leave if I need money?

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​According to Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, if you have established a claim, you must report the paid leave wages, which will reduce the amount of unemployment compensation benefits you may receive in that week. If those wages exceed your partial benefits credit, you will not be eligible for unemployment compensation for that week.

​17. What date should I use for my unemployment compensation application - the date when paid leave for office closings (POC) due to COVID-19 ended (April 10) or the date I will receive my last paycheck?

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​According to the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, you should file for unemployment compensation the first week your income was reduced, i.e., the date the POC ended. You must report any wages that you receive.

​18. Can I use paid leave while waiting for a unemployment compensation determination?

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​As directed by the Department of Labor and Industry, Office of Unemployment Compensation, if you have established a claim, you must report the paid leave wages, which will reduce the amount of unemployment compensation benefits you may receive. If those wages exceed your partial benefits credit, you will not be eligible for unemployment compensation that week.

​19. The unemployment compensation application asks for a reason, but this isn't technically a layoff so do what I put as the reason?

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​You should select “lack of work.” Do not select “other.” It may delay the processing of your claim.

​20. Can I apply for unemployment compensation while on call for emergency duty?

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​If your hours have been reduced, then you may file for unemployment compensation for the reduction in hours, but you must report any wages that you receive.

21. Can I use my accrued and/or anticipated annual leave while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

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Yes. Beginning April 11, 2020, non-essential employees whose work site is closed due to a COVID-19 office closure and who cannot telework must use their own leave for their absence. Employees who are reporting to work or teleworking should continue to do so and are not required to use leave. 

Employees may use their accrued or anticipated annual leave to which they may become entitled in the 2020 leave calendar year. 

For new employees, the rules that normally prohibit employees with less than one (1) year of service from anticipating annual leave during their first year of employment are temporarily suspended for absences due to COVID-19 office closures. Therefore, employees with less than one (1) year of employment may anticipate annual leave to which they would become entitled in the 2020 leave calendar year.  

22. Can my supervisor deny the use of accrued or anticipated annual leave while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

23. Can I use accrued compensatory leave (aka “Comp Leave”) while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

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Yes. Beginning April 11, 2020, non-essential employees whose work site  is closed due to a COVID-19 office closure and who cannot telework must use their own leave for their absence.  Employees who are reporting to work or teleworking should continue to do so and are not required to use leave. 

Employees may use their accrued compensatory leave; however, compensatory leave cannot be anticipated. 


24. Can my supervisor deny the use of compensatory leave while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

25. Can I use my accrued and/or anticipated sick leave while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

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Yes.  Beginning April 11, 2020, non-essential employees whose work site is closed due to a COVID-19 office closure and who cannot telework must use their own leave for their absence. Employees who are reporting to work or teleworking should continue to do so and are not required to use leave.  

Normally, the use of sick leave is only appropriate when you are sick or injured. However, the rules associated with sick leave use have been temporarily suspended for absences due to a COVID-19 office closure for employees who cannot telework. This temporary suspension is only in effect during the COVID-19 emergency.  

Employees may use accrued and anticipated sick leave to which they would become entitled in the 2020 leave calendar year.  

For new employees, the rules that normally prohibit employees with less than one (1) year of service from anticipating sick leave during their first year of employment are temporarily suspended for absences due to COVID-19 office closures. Therefore, employees with less than one (1) year of employment may anticipate sick leave to which they would become entitled in the 2020 leave calendar year.   


26. If I use sick leave because I am sick or injured for any reason including sickness due to COVID-19, do I still need a note from my doctor?

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No. The rules associated with sick leave use, including the rule requiring employees to provide a doctor’s note for any sick absence of three (3) or more consecutive workdays, have been temporarily suspended for absences due to a COVID-19 office closure for employees who cannot telework. This temporary suspension is only in effect during the COVID-19 emergency. 

27. Can my supervisor deny the use of sick leave while offices are closed due to COVID-19?

28. Can I use approved leave without pay (LWOP) with benefits instead of using all my paid leave while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

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​Yes.  Approved LWOP may be used with supervisory approval. However, LWOP must be used in increments equal to at least one full pay period.  You may begin a LWOP in the middle of a pay period provided the LWOP extends through the end of the next pay period. 

29. Can I use a combination of leave without pay (LWOP) with benefits and paid leave while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

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​Yes. However, LWOP must be used in increments equal to at least one full pay period.

30. Am I still responsible to pay the employee health care contribution if I use leave without pay (LWOP) with benefits while my office is closed due to COVID-19?

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If you are currently enrolled in benefits, your benefits will continue and you will receive bills from the Pennsylvania Employees Benefit Trust Fund (PEBTF) for your required contributions and applicable buy-ups.  You must continue to pay the PEBTF for your contributions and buy-ups to continue your coverage.  If you have any questions on your bill or benefits, please contact the PEBTF at 1.800.522.7279. 

31. Am I required to use my paid leave, or can I choose to use unpaid leave? 

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​Employees have the option to use either unpaid leave or paid leave.  However, unpaid leave must be used in increments equal to at least one full pay period.