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Frequently Asked Questions Performance Management

Performance Management - Step Increases

  • A quality step increase (QSI) is a pay feature of the General Schedule. A QSI can only be granted to an employee whose most recent rating of record is Level 5, or, if covered by an appraisal program that does not use a Level 5 summary, the employee receives a rating of record at the highest summary level used by the program and demonstrates sustained performance of high quality significantly above the Fully Successful level.
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  • While employees must receive a rating of record at the highest summary level used by the program and meet the agency-specified criteria for qualifying for a quality step increase, a separate written justification is not required. However, the Office of Personnel Management strongly encourages agencies to require some form of recorded justification, assuring compliance with agency-established criteria for quality step increase eligibility. This will enable the agency to show that the proposed recipient has performed at a truly exceptional level to justify a permanent increase in his or her rate of basic pay.
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  • An acceptable level of competence determination can be delayed for only two reasons: when an employee has not had the minimum period of time to demonstrate acceptable performance on his or her elements and standards; and when an employee is reduced in grade because of unacceptable performance to a position in which he or she is eligible for a within-grade increase or will become eligible within the minimum appraisal period.
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  • No. The regulations specifically restrict the delay of a within-grade determination to two conditions. Permitting the delay of a within-grade determination for employees completing a PIP would give an unfair advantage to an employee whose performance has been determined to be unacceptable (a condition upon which the PIP is based) over employees whose most recent rating of record is Level 2 (marginal, minimally successful, etc.) and who are not eligible for a within-grade increase. There is no requirement to give an employee a rating of record before beginning a PIP. If a within-grade increase determination is due during an employee's PIP, the agency needs to make sure it reviews the employee's most recent rating of record and determines whether a new rating of record is needed to support the within-grade decision. If the last rating of record does not support a within-grade denial, a new rating of record must be given for that purpose. If the agency chooses to use the last rating of record of Level 3 (Fully Successful or equivalent) or better and grant the within-grade, they need to realize they are certifying the employee as performing at that level and jeopardizing any future performance-based action that might have been based on performance during that time period.
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  • No. Governmentwide regulations require a rating of record of at least Level 3 (Fully Successful or equivalent) as the basis for the acceptable level of competence determination. There is no provision to consider anything other than the rating of record.
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