OPM tightens bonus payment rules

The Office of Personnel Management has clarified the rules under which agency leaders must make decisions about awarding cash awards to employees based on performance.

Such awards are available only to employees rated as "fully successful" or higher during the appraisal period, under the rule that was published today. OPM also wants agencies using pay-for-performance systems to make meaningful distinctions among employees, based on performance.

The rule is final and takes effect Feb. 12.

The rule changes address only ratings-based awards given to recognize performance and not to other awards that agencies may want to grant, according to the rule.

According to OPM, the agency received a total of 74 comments during the 30-day comment period last summer. OPM grouped the comments, from individuals, agencies and federal employee unions, into 10 categories:

  • Support for the rule.
  • Concerns about favoritism and bias.
  • The need to train the officials who rate employees.
  • The impact of the rule on agencies that use pass/fail rating systems.
  • Finding funds to pay the awards.
  • How to make the meaningful distinctions the rule calls for.
  • The use of performance review boards or committees.
  • Opposition to the rule.
  • The relationship of the affected awards to base pay and other awards.
  • Various miscellaneous comments.

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