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Frequently Asked Questions Performance Management

  • 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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  • Governmentwide regulations specify four types of awards that can be given to Federal employees: lump-sum cash awards, honorary awards, informal recognition awards, and time off awards
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  • Governmentwide regulations do not establish a minimum time that an employee must be under a supervisor before he/she can be rated. Instead, the regulations require that appraisal programs establish a minimum appraisal period (a minimum amount of time that employees must work under a specific set of elements and standards) before they can be assigned a rating of record. As long as a supervisor has the necessary information and the employee has been under an established set of elements and standards for the minimum appraisal period, the supervisor can assign a rating.
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  • No. Agencies may not file documents for awards in employees' OPF, except for Presidential Rank awards and Quality Step Increases (QSI). Agencies may file documentation of award actions in the Employee Performance File (EPF), including when they maintain the EPF on the left side of the OPF (temporary documents) at their discretion.
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  • An appraisal system describes the general policies and parameters for the administration of performance appraisal programs in the agency. An appraisal program is the specific procedures, methods, and requirements for planning, monitoring, and rating performance. Programs have to be designed within the boundaries of the system but can be tailored to the needs of the organization.
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  • There is no Governmentwide time limitation on a time-off award. However, agencies should set their own policy concerning the time allotted to use a time-off award. Remember, if an employee transfers to another agency, the new agency is not required to honor the time-off award earned at the previous agency.
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  • There are no Governmentwide limits on granting time-off awards. However, agencies should establish their own guidelines and limitations on how much time off is appropriate for various employee contributions.
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  • We would not recommend it. Giving employees the choice between different types of awards could have significant tax consequences. Employee choice usually involves the concept of constructive receipt. For more information on this issue see our document, Tax Issues for Awards or contact the IRS.
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  • A critical element is a work assignment or responsibility of such importance that unacceptable performance on that element would result in a determination the employee's overall performance is unacceptable. Governmentwide regulations require employees have at least one critical element in their performance plans. Critical elements must address performance at the individual level only.
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  • If an employee transfers from one agency to another, the gaining agency is not obligated to "honor" the time-off award. Therefore, any unused time-off awards are not transferable, unless a special arrangement is made with the receiving agency to honor the time-off award granted by the employee's former agency. Also, the losing agency may not convert the time off to cash and give that cash to the employee.  Unlike other forms of pay for time not worked (e.g., annual and sick leave), employees are not entitled to a time-off award.
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