New OPM rule will let agencies refine areas for job cuts

Agencies will have more leeway on defining areas subject to job cuts under an Office of Personnel Management rule that took effect Aug. 11. The rule lets agencies group employees in competitive areas based on their pay systems or pay bands when preparing for reductions in force.

The new rule is a necessary and well-measured response to an obvious gap in the regulations, said Jim McDermott, director of human resources at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The world of federal compensation is no longer two-dimensional, series and grade,” he said.  “The RIF regulations — and probably others — need to catch up to reality.”

The rule change will iron out inconsistencies in existing RIF regulations as agencies move some employees to pay-for-performance and pay-band systems, while others remain in the traditional General Schedule system, OPM said in the Federal Register.

A competitive area could include pay-band and non-pay-band positions or a mix of both, for which an agency would further define a competitive area, OPM said. In the latter case, an agency could define a separate competitive area to include only the pay-band positions. The original competitive area would include only the positions not covered by a pay band, the rule states.

McDermott said the rule was smart, adding that, “it’s clear, it’s simple, it’s wary of unintended consequences, and it’s optional.” 

The National Treasury Employees Union disagreed, saying that potential separate competitive areas with pay bands would give agencies additional management rights without providing federal employees any safeguards against abuses. 

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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