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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

Recruitment, Relocation and Retention Incentives

  • The service agreement must specify the commencement and termination dates of the service period, the amount of the incentive, the method and timing of incentive payments, the amount of each incentive payment, 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 recruitment or relocation incentive. (See 5 CFR 575.110 and 575.210.)
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  • For hourly rate employees who do not have a scheduled annual rate of basic pay, compute the annual rate by multiplying the applicable hourly rate in effect at the beginning of the service period by 2,087 hours. (See 5 CFR 575.109(b)(2) and 575.209(b)(2).)
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  • An agency must consider the following factors, as applicable in the case at hand, in making a retention incentive determination for an individual employee or a group or category of employees likely to leave the Federal service:
    • Employment trends and labor market factors, such as the availability and quality of candidates in the labor market possessing the competencies required for the position and who, with minimal training, cost, or disruption of service to the public, could perform the full range of duties and responsibilities of the employee’s position at the level performed by the employee;
    • The success of recent efforts to recruit candidates and retain employees with qualifications similar to those possessed by the employee for positions similar to the position held by the employee;
    • Special or unique competencies needed for the position;
    • Agency efforts to use non-pay authorities to help retain the employee instead of or in addition to a retention incentive, such as special training and work scheduling flexibilities or improved working conditions;
    • The desirability of the duties, work or organizational environment, or geographic location of the position;
    • The extent to which the employee’s departure would affect the agency's ability to carry out an activity, perform a function, or complete a project the agency deems essential to its mission;
    • The salaries typically paid outside the Federal Government; and
    • Other supporting factors.

    (See 5 CFR 575.306(b) and 575.306(c).)

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  • The service agreement must specify—
    • The commencement and termination dates of the service period;
    • The retention incentive percentage rate established for the employee;
    • Whether the incentive will be paid in installments or in a lump-sum payment upon completion of the service period and, if paid in installments, whether any installment payments will be paid at less than the full retention incentive percentage rate established for the employee, with the accrued but unpaid incentive payment being paid in a lump sum upon completion of the full service period;
    • The timing of incentive payments;
    • The conditions under which an agreement will be terminated by the agency;
    • The effects of terminating the service agreement, including the conditions under which the agency will pay an additional retention incentive payment for partially completed service; and
    • Any other terms and conditions for receiving and retaining a retention incentive.

    (See 5 CFR 575.310.)

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  • For retention incentives that are paid when no service agreement is required, an agency must review each determination to pay the incentive at least annually to determine whether payment is still warranted.  An authorized agency official must certify this determination in writing.  An agency may continue paying a retention incentive to an employee when no service agreement is required as long as the conditions giving rise to the original determination to pay the incentive still exist.  (See 5 CFR 575.311(f).)
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  • It is up to the agency to decide how long to set the service period, within certain limitations (e.g., it cannot be shorter than 6 months for a recruitment incentive or longer than 4 years for a recruitment or relocation incentive). Since the reason for the incentive is to attract a candidate to accept a position or to encourage an employee to relocate to a position-and remain at that position-the agency should consider what service period would best help achieve these objectives, i.e., what the agency believes to be a reasonable period of service for the amount of incentive it is willing to pay.
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  • An agency must establish a single retention incentive rate for each individual or group of employees, expressed as a percentage of each employee’s rate of basic pay, not to exceed 25 percent (for an individual employee) or 10 percent (for a group or category of employees). (See 5 CFR 575.309(a).) With OPM approval, this cap may be increased to as much as 50 percent under the conditions specified in 5 CFR 575.309(e).
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  • A recruitment incentive is an incentive an agency may pay to a newly appointed employee if the agency has determined that the position is likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of such an incentive. In return, the employee must sign an agreement to fulfill a period of service with the agency of not less than 6 months and not more than 4 years. (See 5 U.S.C. 5753; 5 CFR part 575, subpart A; and the Recruitment Incentives fact sheet.)
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  • Yes. Agencies may pay relocation incentives to employees receiving a special rate or locality rate.
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  • No, agencies are no longer required to consider using the superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority before they authorize a recruitment incentive. However, under 5 CFR 531.212(d) (as in effect on and after May 1, 2005), an agency must consider the possibility of authorizing a recruitment incentive when determining whether to use the superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority. The reason for the distinction is that agencies should first consider whether they can attract a candidate by using an authority which has limited implications for the agency budget because it does not increase the employee’s basic pay (e.g., a recruitment incentive) before using a flexibility that increases basic pay (e.g., the superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority) which has longer term cost implications.
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