OPM loosens purse strings on recruitment, retention and relocation

New policy allows agencies to ask for waiver of 25% incentive and retention caps in COVID-19 response.

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268
 

Federal agencies will now be able to augment federal employees' salaries by up to 50% in some cases to boost recruitment, retention and relocation (3R) incentives in high-demand occupations related to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a fact sheet published April 6, the Office of Personnel Management announced that agencies would be able to request waivers on current policies that cap recruitment incentives at 25% of a new employee’s basic pay rate over four years to fill a critical position.

Current policy also dictates that agencies can offer a 25% premium to a single employee as a retention offer and up to 10% for a group or category of employees without OPM approval.

"Agencies may request that OPM waive one or more of these limits to address a critical agency need, such as agency programs or projects related to the President’s declaration of a national emergency concerning the COVID-19 pandemic," OPM said. The memo includes a site where agencies can find standard language to use in their requests.

With a waiver, agencies would be able to increase the premium pay cap to 50% over and above an employee’s basic pay. The wavier can apply to multiple positions, grade levels and service agreement lengths, with supporting justification.

The 3R pay cap waiver is the latest effort in a series of new federal workforce strategies and policies OPM has adopted since the U.S. declared the coronavirus a pandemic, such as the Surge Response program and increased flexible schedules for federal employees with dependents and children.

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