Background

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 to monitor key Postal Service metrics, including unscheduled leave that could potentially affect productivity, efficiency, costs, and employee morale. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, the risk model identified the Baltimore District in the Capital Metro Area as having the fourth highest percentage of unscheduled leave in the Postal Service. This is third in a series of audits in districts with high unscheduled leave activity.

Our objective was to assess the management of unscheduled leave in the Baltimore District and identify opportunities to reduce unscheduled leave and its associated costs.

What the OIG Found

The Baltimore District did not adequately manage unscheduled leave. Management could reduce this leave to an acceptable level by appropriately completing and maintaining required forms, enforcing corrective and disciplinary actions, requiring training, and expanding oversight.

We determined that employees with a combined 89 or more occurrences of unscheduled leave during FYs 2015 and 2016 to be excessive. In FY 2016, 280 of the district’s 4,931 employees (or 6 percent) had excessive unscheduled leave, which comprised 181,961 of 508,287 total unscheduled leave hours (or 36 percent).

In FY 2016, the top four unscheduled leave types recorded for the 280 employees were absent without leave, full day leave without pay in lieu of sick leave, full day leave without pay, and sick leave, which represented 155,474 of 181,961 of their unscheduled leave hours taken (or 85 percent).

This occurred because USPS supervisors did not properly complete and maintain Postal Service Form 3971, Request for or Notification of Absence, which they are required to complete when employees return to work; they did not always review Postal Service Form 3972, Absence Analysis, to justifiably enforce corrective and disciplinary actions; they did not use available tools to deter employees from taking unscheduled absences; and they did not require managers and supervisors to attend refresher training on the leave systems and processes or the disciplinary process.

Additionally, district management did not always review or monitor the most frequently used unscheduled leave type, absent without leave.

At the Baltimore Post Office, which had low unscheduled leave occurrences, a manager and supervisor explained that once noncompliance of three occurrences within 90 days was detected, management would schedule a meeting with the employee and the union representative to justify the reason(s) for the unscheduled absence. In addition, managers at this site conduct regular reviews of PS Forms 3972 and uses the leave systems’ reports.

Additionally, during the audit, Parkville Branch management began implementing corrective actions by designating a supervisor who is the one solely responsible for monitoring and addressing issues with leave and attendance.

In FY 2016, our risk model identified 7 percent of employees in the Capital Metro Area with 20 or more unscheduled leave occurrences per 100 employees; however, the Baltimore District had 12 percent. By reducing the excessive unscheduled leave of the 280 employees in the Baltimore District to the Capital Metro Area percentage, Baltimore District managers would have reduced their excessive unscheduled leave hours by 44 percent (or 80,063 hours). These hours cost the Postal Service about $736,966 in labor and overtime costs during FY 2016.

What the OIG Recommended

We recommended management issue guidance and reiterate policy for using enterprise Resource Management System reports to manage and document unscheduled leave and to initiate and justify appropriate corrective and disciplinary actions; require managers and supervisors to attend refresher training; and enhance the current district review process to include monitoring protocols that promote supervisor accountability.

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