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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

Recruitment, Relocation and Retention Incentives

  • 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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  • Agencies may pay a recruitment or relocation incentive to an eligible individual who is appointed to one of the following categories of positions: General Schedule (GS); senior-level or scientific or professional (SL/ST); Senior Executive Service (SES); Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration (FBI/DEA) SES; law enforcement officer (LEO); Executive Schedule (EX); prevailing rate (wage) positions; and positions in a category for which payment of recruitment or relocation incentives has been approved by OPM at the request of the head of an executive agency. (See 5 CFR 575.103 and 575.203.)
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  • Before paying a recruitment or relocation incentive, an agency must establish a plan for using the authority.  (See 5 CFR 575.107 and 575.207.)  The plan must include the designation of officials with authority to review and approve the payment of recruitment or relocation incentives, the designation of officials with authority to waive the repayment of a recruitment or relocation incentive, the categories of employees who are prohibited from receiving recruitment or relocation incentives, the required documentation for determining that a position is likely to be difficult to fill, requirements for determining the amount of an 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, agency recruitment and relocation incentive plans must apply uniformly across the agency.
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  • 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.   Also, a relocation incentive may be paid only when the employee’s rating of record (or an official performance appraisal or evaluation under a system not covered by 5 U.S.C. chapter 43 or 5 CFR part 430) for the position held immediately before the move is at least "Fully Successful" or equivalent.  (See 5 CFR 575.205.)
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  • Each agency must keep a record of each determination to pay a retention incentive and make such records available for review upon OPM's request. (See 5 CFR 575.313(a).)
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  • There is no set period of employment under a retention incentive service agreement.
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  • Yes, if it is not possible to recruit the candidate solely through offering a recruitment incentive. (See 5 CFR 531.212(d).)
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  • The service agreement may include any other terms or conditions that, if violated, will result in termination of the service agreement. For example, the service agreement may specify the employee’s work schedule, type of position, and the duties he or she is expected to perform. In addition, the service agreement may address the extent to which periods of time on detail, in a nonpay status, or in a paid leave status are creditable towards the completion of the service period. (See 5 CFR 575.310(e).)
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  • No. Recruitment and relocation incentive payments are not subject to the biweekly or annual premium pay limitation, since recruitment and relocation incentives are neither premium pay nor basic pay.
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  • A service agreement is required in most cases when a retention incentive is paid. It is required when the agency pays the incentive—
    • In a single lump-sum payment after completion of the full service period;
    • In installments after the completion of periods of service (except when the incentive is paid in biweekly installments at the full retention incentive percentage rate established for the employee);
    • In all cases where the 25 percent cap (or 10 percent for groups of employees) has been waived, no matter how payment is made; and
    • In all cases when an employee is likely to leave for a different position in the Federal service.
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