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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

What is considered an "equivalent increase" for GS employees?

An "equivalent increase" is considered to occur at the time of any of the following personnel actions:

  • A within-grade increase, excluding (1) a quality step increase granted under 5 CFR part 531, subpart E, or (2) an interim WGI if that increase is later terminated under 5 CFR 531.414;
  • A promotion (permanent or temporary) to a higher grade, including the promotion of an employee receiving a retained rate under 5 CFR 359.705 or 5 CFR part 536 that does not result in a pay increase, but excluding (1) a temporary promotion if, at the end of that temporary promotion, the employee is returned to the grade from which promoted, or (2) a promotion to a higher-graded supervisory or managerial position when the employee does not satisfactorily complete a probationary period established under 5 U.S.C. 3321(a)(2) and is returned to a position at the lower grade held before promotion;
  • Application of the maximum payable rate rule in 5 CFR 531.221 that results in a higher step rate within the employee's GS grade (or an increase for a GM employee to the next higher rate within the grade), except for application of that rule in a demotion to the extent that the employee's rate of basic pay after demotion does not exceed the lowest step rate that equals or exceeds the employee's rate of basic pay immediately before the demotion (see the Note below for an example);
  • Application of the superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority in 5 CFR 531.212 that results in a higher step rate within the employee's GS grade (or an increase for a GM employee to the next higher rate within the grade); or
  • Application of the qualifications pay authority in 5 U.S.C. 9814 to an employee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, when the employee fulfills the 1-year service requirement in the position for which qualifications pay was received or in a successor position.

Note: For example, in 2009 a GS-13, step 3, employee ($75,323 GS rate) accepts a voluntary demotion to a GS-12 position. The agency sets her pay using the maximum payable rate rule at GS-12, step 10 ($77,194 GS rate). The increase in pay is not an equivalent increase because the employee's pay was set at the lowest step that exceeded her rate of basic pay before promotion.

For information on equivalent increases for non-GS employees who move to the GS pay system, see Q10, which includes an example for an employee moving to the GS pay system from the Department of Defense (DoD) National Security Personnel System (NSPS).

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