Pay freeze won't stop all increases

OPM issues guidance on exclusions

The two-year federal employee pay freeze that recently became law won't affect promotion increases, in-grade step increases and other individually based pay increases, such as bonuses, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

In a Dec. 30 memo to federal agency heads, OPM Director John Berry detailed how the freeze on pay adjustments will apply to approximately 2 million federal civilian employees and what types of pay increases won't be affected. 

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Employees covered by the freeze include those under the General Schedule, Executive Schedule, Senior Executive Service, Senior Foreign Service, senior-level and scientific and professional, prevailing rate, and other executive branch pay systems and schedules.

The memo noted that United States Postal Service employees and the Postal Regulatory Commission are excluded from the freeze, along with military personnel.

President Barack Obama signed the pay freeze into law Dec. 22 and issued an executive order to implement freeze the same day.

In a presidential memorandum accompanying the order, Obama asked agency heads who have the authority to exercise administrative discretion when it comes to executive branch pay schedules not to use that discretion during the pay freeze.

The OPM memo included the following list of pay freeze exclusions:

  • Additional payments, such as performance awards and bonuses; recruitment, relocation and retention incentives; and premium payments such as  overtime pay.
  • Promotions, periodic in-grade step increased based on fully successful level of performance, and quality step increases for outstanding performance.
  • Adjustments in foreign areas to maintain a constant salary rate in U.S. dollars or local currency or to respond to foreign labor laws.
  • Pay-setting flexibilities, such as the GS superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority for newly appointed employees under 5 Code of Federal Regulations 531.212 and the GS maximum payable rate rule under 5 CFR 531.221.

The pay freeze will also not affect pay increases required by collective bargaining agreements that are already in effect, according to OPM.

The freeze began on Jan. 1 and will last until Dec. 31, 2012.

OPM has posted salary tables and guidance on its website for 2011 pay rates, as well as a basic question and answer sheet on the freeze.


About the Author

Alyah Khan is a staff writer covering IT policy.

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Reader comments

Tue, Jan 3, 2012

Welcome to our world, guess what? there's not a damn thing you can complain about, must pay taxes to support all others no matter what, depends on who exactly of course, Do Audits! higher up on the chain. -Ca state worker

Thu, Jan 27, 2011

Apparently no one realizes that word of the intended pay freeze caused many Federal workers to withhold spending during Christmas and subsequent holidays, therefore reducing the amount funds going into the economy. Many are taking their money out of banks and keeping it at home where it is safe and have decided not to buy anything unless it is absolutely necessary. So what have they accomplished? They may not be paying out anymore money to workers but in turn those workers are no longer supporting the economy with their usual purchases? Also, all of us GS workers sit by administer and monitor contracts for the government in which everyone of them had a collective bargaining increase of 3% this year and will every year of the contract. On top of that 3% most contracts receive G&A ,Base Fees, Project Mgmt and Award Fees on the contract value; costing more to do the work that GS employees do for a Flat rate. I don't see that anyone has actually stopped and looked at the entire picture and what their immediate "knee jerk" reaction will cause in future years!! There is never just one solution to a problem and many current actions will cause long term negative reactions...HELLO MCFLY!!

Sun, Jan 9, 2011

The post office gets tax payer bailouts every year. So, yeah, they operate on tax payer dollars.

Fri, Jan 7, 2011 Mike

Agree that something needs to be done...Just don't agree with singling-out certain Federal Employees! SHARE THE BURDEN ACROSS THE NATION! By the way, I haven't mentioned any particular political party or entity. They're all the same to me.

Thu, Jan 6, 2011 Mark Colorado

The National Business Center (people who pay about 1/3 of the federal workforce) was told this week that FAA not only still gets their raise, but it will be in a range of 3% to 12% depending upon their job. Strange how that wasn't publicized.

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