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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

Pay Administration

  • See the credit hours fact sheet at – http://www.opm.gov/oca/WORKSCH/HTML/Cred_hrs.asp
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  • For an employee who performs service under a non-GS Federal pay system which is potentially creditable towards a within-grade increase waiting period, an equivalent increase is considered to occur at the time of any of the following personnel actions in the non-GS pay system:

    • A promotion to a higher grade or work level within the non-GS pay system (unless the promotion is cancelled and the employee's rate of basic pay is redetermined as if the promotion had not occurred); or
    • An opportunity to receive a within-level or within-range increase that results in forward movement in the applicable range of rates of basic pay (including an increase granted immediately upon movement to the non-GS pay system from another pay system-e.g., to account for the value of accrued within-grade increases under the former pay system or to provide a promotion-equivalent increase), where "forward movement in the applicable range" means any kind of increase in the employee's rate of basic pay other than an increase that is directly and exclusively linked to (1) a general structural increase in the employee's basic pay schedule or rate range (including the adjustment of a range minimum or maximum) or (2) the employee's placement under a new basic pay schedule within the same pay system, when such placement results in a nondiscretionary basic pay increase to account for occupational pay differences.

    A non-GS pay system is one that does not meet the definition of "General Schedule" or "GS" in 5 CFR 531.403. The personnel actions above must have occurred within the same pay system. That is, even if an employee receives an increase in pay moving between pay systems, that "promotion" or other pay increase is not considered an equivalent increase. See Note 1.

    For example, the DoD NSPS pay system is a non-GS pay system. The following NSPS pay events would be considered equivalent increases under 5 CFR 531.407(b):

    1. A promotion to a higher band under 5 CFR 9901.354, excluding a temporary or probationary promotion that is later cancelled;
    2. Any within-band increase other than a general salary increase under 5 CFR 9901.323, which would include the following:
      • A performance pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.342;
      • A special within-band increase under 5 CFR 9901.344;
      • A developmental pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.345;
      • A pay adjustment upon placement in an NSPS position under 5 CFR 9901.351(c)(a WGI adjustment equivalent) (See Note 1);
      • A reassignment increase under 5 CFR 9901.353 upon reassignment to a position within the same band, including such a reassignment increase granted immediately upon movement from a non-NSPS position (i.e., excluding reassignment to a comparable band, since that band is in a different NSPS pay schedule with its own basic pay schedule);
      • An increase (if any) under 5 CFR 9901.355 provided after a reduction in band in the same pay schedule, including such an increase provided immediately upon movement from a non-NSPS position (i.e., excluding movement to a lower band in a different pay schedule); or
      • A one-time pay adjustment upon conversion to NSPS under 5 CFR 9901.371(j) (e.g., a WGI adjustment) (See Note 1);
      • A noncompetitive promotion equivalent increase provided to eligible employees during the first 12 months following conversion under 5 CFR 9901.371(l).
    3. A zero increase at the time of an opportunity for an increase, which would include the following:
      • A zero performance pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.342, excluding employees who do not have an opportunity for an increase because their rate equals or exceeds a range maximum (See Note 1);
      • A zero developmental pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.345, if there is a fixed schedule for receiving such an increase;
      • A zero pay adjustment (WGI adjustment) upon conversion to NSPS under 9901.371(j), if the zero adjustment was based on the employee being rated below an acceptable level of competence (as defined in 5 CFR part 531, subpart D), as required by NSPS 5 CFR 9901.371(j)(6); or
      • A zero pay adjustment (WGI adjustment equivalent) upon placement in an NSPS position and application of 5 CFR 990.351(c), if the zero adjustment was based on the employee being rated below an acceptable level of competence.

    Note 1: OPM has a general policy that a pay increase resulting from a change in pay system does not count as an equivalent increase. However, the NSPS WGI adjustment and WGI adjustment equivalent are pay adjustments made under the NSPS system after conversion or placement (although effective on the same date). Under the NSPS regulations, employees are converted with no change in pay. The WGI adjustment under 5 CFR 9901.371(j) is a mandatory adjustment following that conversion. The WGI adjustment equivalent under 5 CFR 9901.351(c)(1) also is a mandatory adjustment, and the WGI adjustment equivalent under 5 CFR 9901(c)(2) is a discretionary adjustment, both made following placement in an NSPS position.

    Note 2: To the extent that DoD establishes any control point that serves as a maximum rate for all positions within a defined subcategory within a band based on labor market factors (without regard to performance rating), a pay increase denied solely because of such control point would not be considered to be an opportunity for an increase and thus would not be considered to be an equivalent increase.

    Note 3: Consistent with 5 CFR 531.407(c), a local market supplement adjustment under NSPS would not be considered an equivalent increase. Also, an adjustment resulting from being placed in a subcategory of positions to which a higher supplement applies would not be an equivalent increase.

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  • If a temporary promotion is made permanent immediately after the temporary promotion ends, the employee is not returned to the lower grade in order to process the permanent promotion. See 5 CFR 531.214(e). The agency must convert the temployee's temporary promotion to a permanent promotion without a change in pay. The appropriate action is to process the promotion (nature of action code 702) showing the higher grade as the grade before and after promotion. (See rules 5 and 6, Table 14-B, chapter 14, Office of Personnel Management's Guide to Processing Personnel Actions.) In effect, the promotion increase granted at the time of the temporary promotion is ratified and made permanent by the removal of the not-to-exceed-date limitation on the temporary promotion.

    If there is any period of time between the end of a temporary promotion and the beginning of a permanent promotion, the employee must be returned to the lower grade. As required by 5 CFR 531.215(c), the agency must recompute the employee's rate of basic pay for the lower grade as if the employee had never been temporarily promoted. Also, the agency may choose, at its discretion, to apply the maximum payable rate rule in 5 CFR 531.221 if that would yield a higher rate. Whatever method is used, the resulting rate is the basis for any subsequent promotion. 

    With respect to the "maximum pay rate" rule, please note that an employee's highest previous rate may not be based on a rate received in a position to which the employee was temporarily promoted for less than 1 year, except upon permanent placement in a position at the same or higher grade. (See 5 CFR 531.223(b).) If an agency chooses to apply the maximum payable rate rule, it may set pay at any step equal to or less than the maximum payable rate, but not less than the rate to which the employee is entitled under the normal pay-setting rules.

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  • Yes.  All “highly qualified” personnel, regardless of job series, including Senior Executive Service members, Federal Wage System employees, and employees covered by administratively determined pay systems, are eligible unless specifically excluded by law or regulation.
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  • Hazardous duty pay is additional pay for the performance of hazardous duty or duty involving physical hardship. Hazardous duty pay is payable to General Schedule (GS) employees covered by chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code. Prevailing rate (wage) employees are eligible to receive environmental differential pay in certain circumstances under a separate statutory provision (5 U.S.C. 5343(c)(4)).
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  •  If an employee is reduced in grade or pay in conjunction with a transfer to another agency, there is no mandatory entitlement to grade or pay retention. However, the gaining agency may grant grade or pay retention under its optional authority (5 CFR 536.202 or 536.302), as long as the employee is otherwise qualified.

    One of the eligibility conditions is that the reduction in grade or pay not be "at the employee's request" (5 CFR 536.102(b)(1)). If the transfer is initiated by the employee for his or her benefit, convenience, or personal advantage (including a transfer to avoid adverse action based on personal cause), it would be considered to be at the employee's request, thus barring grade or pay retention. However, if the transfer was directly caused or influenced by a management action (not based on personal cause), then even though the transfer appeared to be voluntary, it would not be "at the employee's request." (See definitions ofmanagement action and reduced in grade or pay at the employee's request in 5 CFR 536.103.)

    For purposes of providing optional grade retention to a transferring employee, the management action must be either a specific RIF notice or a written announcement of a reorganization or reclassification that might result in reduction of the employee's grade. For purposes of optional pay retention, the management action must be an action that would result in a pay reduction (after the application of any applicable geographic conversion under 5 CFR 536.303(a) and in the absence of pay retention).

    Note: A movement between subcomponents of an Executive department or other Executive agency cannot be considered a transfer. Under the law, the term "agency" includes Executive departments and certain other agencies. (See 5 U.S.C. 101-105, 5102(a), and 5361(2).) Thus, it is possible for mandatory grade and pay retention to apply to an employee who moves between subcomponents of an Executive department or other Executive agency--e.g., if the employee is placed in a lower-graded position at management initiative as a result of reduction-in-force procedures.

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  • The statute authorizing this program states that this incentive is to be used for employees of a given agency who have outstanding student loans.  Thus, if the employee has a PLUS loan for his or her child, the loan would qualify for repayment.  However, if a PLUS loan is held by an employee’s parent, the employee is not eligible for loan repayment benefits for the parent’s PLUS loan.  While a PLUS loan an employee has previously taken out to help pay for his or her child's education is a qualifying student loan under 5 U.S.C. 5379(a)(1)(B) and 5 CFR 537.102, an agency may specify in its agency loan repayment plan that it will not offer to repay PLUS loans under its student loan repayment program.
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  • Agencies should use the alternate method when an employee is covered by different pay schedules before and after promotion if the alternate method produces a higher payable rate upon promotion than the standard method. See Promotion Examples 3 and 5.

    Agencies also may use the alternate method even if the alternate method produces a lower payable rate than the standard method. Under this circumstance, the agency must determine under 5 CFR 531.214(d)(2)(iii) that it would be inappropriate to use the standard method based on a finding that the higher pay for the position before promotion is not sufficiently related to the knowledge and skills required for the position after promotion.

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  • Under current severance pay regulations (5 CFR 550.706), employees who resign because they expect to be involuntarily separated are considered to have been involuntarily separated for severance pay purposes ONLY IF they resign after receiving-

    1. a specific written notice stating that the employee will be involuntarily separated by a particular action (e.g., reduction in force) on a particular date (see 5 CFR 550.706(a)(1); or
    2. a general written notice of reduction in force or transfer of function that announces that all positions in the competitive area will be abolished or transferred to another commuting area by a particular date no more than 1 year after the date of the notice (see 5 CFR 550.706(a)(2)).

    However, if the specific or general notice is cancelled before the resignation is effected, the resignation would not be qualifying for severance pay purposes. (See 5 CFR 550.706(c).

    If the specific notice deals with involuntary separation by reduction-in-force (RIF) procedures, the notice must meet the conditions in 5 CFR part 351, subpart H. A general notice has no standing under the RIF program and is not subject to RIF rules. A general notice cannot be used to meet the RIF notice requirements in 5 CFR part 351, subpart H.

    A Certification of Expected Separation under 5 CFR 351.807 is not a qualifying specific or general notice under the severance pay regulations.

    Entitlement to certain benefits--such as training assistance, priority placement rights, appeal rights, etc.--may be affected by an employee's decision to resign in advance of an actual involuntary separation action. The employing agency should inform affected employees of these implications before they accept a resignation.

    Even if a resignation is considered an "involuntary separation" under the severance pay rules, the employee may not be eligible for severance pay under 5 U.S.C. 5595 and 5 CFR part 550, subpart G, for other reasons. The employee must meet all applicable eligibility requirements.

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  • Agencies may not offer to repay a student loan for an employee who is likely to leave for any position in any branch of the Federal Government. (See 5 CFR 537.105(a)(2)(ii).)
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