House considers improving federal carrot

A House subcommittee is trying to sweeten the pot in order to attract high-quality employees and build the federal workforce by increasing the perks for workers who take federal jobs.

In an attempt to offset large numbers of federal employees retiring in the next five years, the House Government Reform Committee's Civil Service and Agency Organization Subcommittee approved legislation to enhance employee benefits and make government employment more competitive with the private sector.

Among the perks, it approved enhanced vacation benefits for federal workers who take government jobs midway through their careers, compensatory time off for workers who travel for business during nonbusiness hours and partial credit for part-time workers toward their retirement.

"Taken together, these provisions will give managers and employees alike more flexibility, and in general make the federal government an employer of choice," said Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), committee chairwoman.

The legislation — the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act — has passed the Senate and is likely to move quickly through the House. It also improves how the federal government can use recruitment, relocation and retention bonuses to create a better workforce. However, it prohibits the awarding of bonuses to political appointees.

The bill eliminates open season for the Thrift Savings Plan, which restricts employees to one time period when they can make changes in their retirement contributions. The bill would allow employees to make changes any time they wanted to.

Kay Coles James, the director of the Office of Personnel Management, testified before the committee on Tuesday about federal hiring practices and said the federal government is increasing its targeted recruiting to find federal workers. Among her recommendations is sending qualified recruiters to job fairs, she said.

"Do not send hostesses to hiring fairs," she told the panel. "Send people who have the authority to hire."

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