Q. I am career permanent in federal government employment as GS-14. I wish to leave to take a private-sector job to see if I like it. How long can I remain on unpaid leave of absence and still have return rights back into federal employment?
A. You are asking about leave without pay, the granting of which is solely at the discretion of your management. Your management would be unlikely to grant LWOP to someone who wants to test private-sector waters. It would provide little or no benefit to them and would tie up a position they would be better off recruiting for and filling.
If you want to resign from the government and take another job, you are free to do so. If you leave your contributions in the retirement fund and later return to government employment, you’ll get full credit for your years of service in your leave accrual rate, determining your eligibility to retire, and your annuity computation. If you withdraw your contributions, you could redeposit that amount plus accrued interest to get retirement credit for that time.