Click here to skip navigation
An official website of the United States Government.
Skip Navigation

In This Section

Pay & Leave Recruitment, Relocation & Retention Incentives

Fact Sheet: Relocation Incentives

Description

An agency may pay a relocation incentive to a current employee who must relocate to accept a position in a different geographic area if the agency determines that the position is likely be difficult to fill in the absence of an incentive. A relocation incentive may be paid only when the employee's rating of record under an official performance appraisal or evaluation system is at least "Fully Successful" or equivalent.

Covered Positions

A relocation incentive may be paid to an eligible individual who is appointed to a General Schedule (GS), senior-level (SL), scientific or professional (ST), Senior Executive Service (SES), Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration (FBI/DEA) SES, Executive Schedule (EX), law enforcement officer, or prevailing rate position. OPM may approve other categories for coverage upon written request from the head of an executive agency.

Excluded Positions

A relocation incentive may not be paid to Presidential appointees (except career SES appointees); noncareer appointees in the Senior Executive Service; those in positions excepted from the competitive service by reason of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating natures; agency heads; those expected to receive an appointment as an agency head; or SES limited term appointees or SES limited emergency appointees when the appointment must be cleared through the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.

Relocation to Different Geographic Area

A relocation incentive may be paid to an employee who-

  • Must relocate to a different geographic area (permanently or temporarily) to accept a covered position in an agency when the position is likely to be difficult to fill; and
  • Is an employee of the Federal Government immediately before the relocation. (See 5 CFR 575.205(a).)

A position is considered to be in a different geographic area if the worksite of the new position is 50 or more miles from the worksite of the position held immediately before the move. If the worksite of the new position is less than 50 miles from the worksite of the position held immediately before the move, but the employee must relocate (i.e., establish a new residence) to accept the position, an authorized agency official may waive the 50-mile requirement and pay the employee a relocation incentive. In all cases, an employee must establish a residence in the new geographic area before the agency may pay the employee a relocation incentive.

An employee receiving a relocation incentive may establish a residence in the new geographic location in several ways, including but not limited to—

  • purchasing or renting of a home, apartment, or condominium;
  • residing at a residence of a friend or family member; or
  • temporarily residing at a hotel

The employee does not need to terminate an existing residence nor physically move his or her family, household, goods, etc. to the residence in the new geographical location in order to receive a relocation incentive. For example, the employee could retain a residence of record in a different geographic area and live in the new duty location during the work week.

Maintaining a Residence in the New Geographic Location

In addition to establishing a residence in the new geographic location before the payment of a relocation incentive, an employee must maintain a residence in the new geographic location for the duration of the service agreement. A relocation incentive will be terminated for employees who fail to maintain a residence throughout the service agreement in the new geographic location. Periodically throughout the service agreement, employees may be required to provide proof of residence. Examples of proof of residence include a lease, proof of purchasing property, utility bill, or a similar document to ensure the employee still resides in the new location.

Agency Plan

Before paying a relocation incentive, an agency must establish a relocation incentive plan. The plan must include the designation of officials with authority to review and approve the payment of relocation incentives, the designation of officials with authority to waive the repayment of a relocation incentive, the categories of employees who may not receive relocation incentives, the required documentation for determining that a position is likely to be difficult to fill, requirements for determining the amount of a relocation incentive, the payment methods that may be authorized, requirements governing service agreements (including criteria for determining the length of a service period, the conditions for terminating a service agreement, and the obligations of the agency and the employee if a service agreement is terminated), and documentation and recordkeeping requirements. Unless the head of the agency determines otherwise, an agency relocation incentive plan must apply uniformly across the agency.

Approval Criteria

For each relocation incentive authorized, an agency must document in writing the basis for determining that the position is likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of a relocation incentive, the amount and timing of the incentive payments, the length of the service period, and that the worksite of the new position is in a different geographic area than the previous position. The determination to pay a relocation incentive must be made before the employee enters on duty in the position at the new duty station. The authorized agency official must review and approve the relocation incentive determination before the agency pays the incentive to the employee. Agency determinations to pay a relocation incentive must generally be made on a case-by-case basis.

An agency also may determine that a position is likely to be difficult to fill if the agency is likely to have difficulty recruiting candidates with the competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics) required for the position (or group of positions) in the absence of a relocation incentive based on a consideration of the factors listed in 5 CFR 575.206(b). An agency also may determine that a position is likely to be difficult to fill if OPM has approved the use of a direct-hire authority applicable to the position.

Groups of Employees

An agency may waive the case-by-case approval requirement when the employee is a member of a group of employees subject to a mobility agreement or when a major organizational unit is being relocated to a new duty station. Under such a waiver, an agency must specify the group of employees covered, the conditions under which the waiver is approved, and the period of time during which the waiver may be applied. Groups of employees must be approved for relocation incentives using the same criteria that apply to individuals. (See 5 CFR 575.208(b).)

Payment

A relocation incentive may not exceed 25 percent of the employee's annual rate of basic pay in effect at the beginning of the service period multiplied by the number of years (including fractions of a year) in the service period (not to exceed 4 years). With OPM approval, this cap may be raised to 50 percent (based on a critical agency need), as long as the total incentive does not exceed 100 percent of the employee's annual rate of basic pay at the beginning of the service period. (See 5 CFR 575.209(c).) The incentive may be paid as an initial lump-sum payment at the beginning of the service period, in installments throughout the service period, as a final lump-sum payment upon completion of the service period, or in a combination of these methods. The agency may not pay a relocation incentive until the employee establishes a residence in the new geographic area.

Rate of Basic Pay

For the purpose of calculating a relocation incentive, an employee's rate of basic pay includes a special rate under 5 CFR part 530, subpart C, a locality payment under 5 CFR part 531, subpart F, or similar payment under other legal authority, but excludes additional pay of any other kind. A relocation incentive is not part of an employee's rate of basic pay for any purpose.

Aggregate Pay Limitation

Payment of a relocation incentive is subject to the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 CFR part 530, subpart B.

Service Agreement

Before receiving a relocation incentive, an employee must sign a written agreement to complete a specified period of employment with the agency at the new duty station. The service agreement must specify the length, commencement, and termination dates of the service period; the amount of the incentive; the method and timing of incentive payments; the conditions under which an agreement will be terminated by the agency; any agency or employee obligations if a service agreement is terminated (including the conditions under which the employee must repay an incentive or under which the agency must make additional payments for partially completed service); and any other terms and conditions for receiving and retaining a relocation incentive.

An agency may not commence a relocation incentive service agreement during a service period established by an employee's recruitment incentive service agreement or previously authorized relocation incentive service agreement. An agency may commence a relocation incentive service agreement during a service period established by an employee's previously authorized retention incentive service agreement or while an employee receives previously authorized retention incentive payments without a service agreement.

Service Period

The employee's required service period may not exceed 4 years. The service period must begin upon the commencement of service at the new duty station and end on the last day of a pay period. The commencement of the service period may be delayed under certain conditions described in 5 CFR 575.210(b).

Termination of a Service Agreement

Discretionary

An agency may unilaterally terminate a relocation incentive service agreement based solely on the management needs of the agency, in which case the employee is entitled to relocation incentive payments attributable to completed service and to retain any incentive payments already received that are attributable to uncompleted service.

Mandatory

An agency must terminate a service agreement if an employee is demoted or separated for cause (i.e., for unacceptable performance or conduct), receives a rating of record lower than "Fully Successful" or equivalent during the service period, fails to maintain a residence at the new geographic location for the duration of the service agreement, or otherwise fails to fulfill the terms of the service agreement. In such cases, the employee may retain any relocation incentive payments attributable to completed service, but must repay any portion of the incentive attributable to uncompleted service. (See 5 CFR 575.211(h) for a repayment waiver authority.) The agency is not obligated to pay the employee any outstanding incentive payment attributable to completed service unless such payment was required under the terms of the relocation incentive service agreement. The full amount of the authorized relocation incentive must be prorated across the length of the service period to determine the amount attributable to completed service and uncompleted service.

An agency must notify an employee in writing when it terminates a relocation incentive service agreement. The termination of a service agreement is not grievable or appealable.

References

  • 5 U.S.C. 5753
  • 5 CFR part 575, subpart B

Back to Top

Control Panel