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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Employment Benefits
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Federal employment offers a competitive benefits package including paid holidays, annual and sick leave, comprehensive health coverage, life insurance, Social Security, Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), and Thrift Savings Plan participation.

These benefits are described briefly below.

Paid Holidays
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Federal employees receive 10 paid holidays each year: New Year's Day, Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday, President's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Annual Leave
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As a Federal employee, you will earn annual leave that may be used for vacations, rest and relaxation, and personal business or emergencies. Hours are earned each biweekly pay period. A maximum amount of 240 hours of annual leave may be carried over from one leave year to the next. Following is the rate of accrual for full time employees (leave is prorated for part-time employees or those on uncommon tours of duty):
  • 1-3 years of service: 13 days leave
  • 3-15 years of service: 20 days leave
  • 15 years of service and up: 26 days leave
  • Sick Leave
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    As a Federal employee, you will earn sick leave that may be used for your own or a family member's medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment. Regardless of length of service, full time employees earn 13 days of sick leave each year (leave is prorated for part-time employees or those on uncommon tours of duty). There are no limits on the amount of sick leave that can be accumulated. Federal employees may use up to 12 administrative workweeks of accumulated sick leave (480 hours) each leave year to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

    Health Insurance
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    As a Federal employee, you will have a variety health insurance options from which to choose coverage: Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) or fee-for-service health plans. As the employer, the agency pays part of the biweekly health benefit premium. No medical exam is required to enroll, and there is no waiting period. Coverage may be carried into retirement.

    Life Insurance
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    As a Federal employee, you may enroll in the government-wide Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program. FEGLI provides a variety of coverage and benefit amounts. Coverage is automatic for most employees unless the coverage is waived.

    Federal Employees Retirement System
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    The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) consists of three components: Social Security benefits, a basic annuity plan, and the tax-deferred Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Employees pay full Social Security taxes and a small contribution to the basic annuity plan. As your employer, we make an automatic 1% of salary contribution to your TSP. You may also elect to contribute a percentage of your salary to the Plan and we will match your contributions up to a total of 5% of salary.

    Thrift Savings Plan
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    The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a retirement savings plan for civilian employees of the U.S. Federal Government. The purpose of the TSP is to provide retirement income. The TSP offers Federal civilian employees the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401-K plans. The TSP is a defined contribution plan.

    Flexible Spending Accounts
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    A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a tax-favored program that allows employees to set aside pre-tax money from their paychecks to pay for a variety of eligible expenses.  There are two types of FSA accounts available to employees - Health Care Flexible Spending Account and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account.  Eligible employees may choose to participate in either, or both, of the Flexible Spending Accounts.  There are no government contributions to this program.

    Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program
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    Eligible employees can sign up to participate in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). This program provides long term care insurance to help pay costs of care when employees need help with activities performed everyday, or when employees have a severe cognitive impairment.  There are no government contributions to this program.


    Last Modified: 9/7/2012