Just don’t call them 'bonuses'

Agencies may pay better recruiting incentives

The Office of Personnel Management unveiled interim regulations this month to attract the best and brightest job candidates, give them bigger paychecks and pay them extra if they have to relocate.

Although the OPM regulations do not call the new interim rules "bonuses," federal workers could be paid up to 100 percent of one year's salary for recruitment and relocation and half a year's salary for retention under the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act of 2004. The interim regulations, which update older ones, are the latest federal effort to attract and retain a talented workforce as more federal workers retire.

"The purpose was to enhance [existing incentives] so agencies would be in a better place to strategically use them," said Donald Winstead, deputy associate director of OPM's Center for Pay and Performance Policy.

The new regulations have some drawbacks, however. Congressional leaders have not appropriated additional money to pay for the incentives, so agencies will have to find money within their existing budgets to pay for them. Workers who fail to stay at an agency for a designated period of time will have to repay the funds.

Dan Blair, OPM's acting director, wrote in a memo that "recruitment, relocation and retention payments are designed to provide a monetary incentive for an individual to accept employment or remain employed in the federal service in a current position."

The retention and recruitment payments will not be available for employees who move from one federal agency to another or for political appointees, who typically earn more than career workers.

By the numbers

Here are the numbers on federal employees who received financial incentives in fiscal 2004.

  • Recruitment payments: 5,855
  • Relocation payments: 1,268
  • Retention allowances, as of December 2004: 16,414

Source: Office of Personnel Management

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