The U.S. Postal Service categorizes unscheduled leave as any absence from work that is not requested or approved in advance. Unscheduled leave could contribute to increased compensation expenses by requiring management to increase workhours and overtime hours.
The OIG developed a Human Resource Risk Model (risk model) to monitor key Postal Service metrics, including unscheduled leave that could potentially affect productivity, efficiency, costs, and employee morale. For all four quarters of fiscal year (FY) 2016, the risk model identified the New York District in the Northeast Area as having the highest percentage of unscheduled leave in the Postal Service.
Our objective was to assess the management of unscheduled leave in the New York District and identify opportunities to reduce unscheduled leave and its associated costs. This is one in a series of audits in districts with high unscheduled leave activity.
What the OIG Found
The New York District did not adequately manage excessive unscheduled leave, which could be potentially mitigated to acceptable levels by appropriately completing required forms, enforcing disciplinary actions, and providing sufficient supervisory training.
We determined employees with a combined 132 or more occurrences of unscheduled leave during FYs 2015 and 2016 to be excessive. In FY 2016, 578 of the district’s 8,417 employees (or 7 percent) had a combined 132 or more occurrences of unscheduled leave, which was 44 percent of total unscheduled leave hours (538,680 of 1,229,479).
The top three unscheduled leave types recorded for the 578 employees were absent without leave, sick leave, and full day leave without pay. These leave types represented 86 percent (464,008 of 538,680) of their unscheduled leave hours taken.
This occurred because Postal Service supervisors did not properly complete, approve, and maintain Postal Service Forms 3971, Request for or Notification of Absence, which they were required to complete when employees returned to work; they did not take appropriate disciplinary action against employees with excessive leave; and they did not receive sufficient training on the unscheduled leave systems/processes or the disciplinary process.
In addition, the current district manager oversight process to monitor unscheduled leave activity is not comprehensive enough to promote adherence to policy, adequate monitoring, and accountability.
In FY 2016, Quarter four, per our risk model, 6 percent of the average number of employees in the Northeast Area had 20 or more unscheduled leave occurrences, whereas 19 percent of the New York District’s average number of employees had 20 or more occurrences. By reducing the 578 employees with excessive unscheduled leave in New York District to the Northeast Area ratio, the New York District would have reduced their excessive unscheduled leave hours by 68 percent (or 214,579 hours). These hours cost the Postal Service about $3.9 million in labor and overtime during FY 2016.
What the OIG Recommended
We recommended management issue guidance and reiterate policy on using the Enterprise Resource Management System to manage and document unscheduled leave and to initiate disciplinary actions when appropriate; require managers and supervisors to attend training; and enhance the current district review process to include monitoring protocols to promote supervisor accountability.