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Quality Step Increase

Fact Sheet: Quality Step Increase


A quality step increase (QSI) is an additional within-grade increase (WGI) used to recognize and reward General Schedule (GS) employees at any grade level who display outstanding performance. A QSI has the effect of moving an employee through the GS pay range faster than by periodic step increases alone.


To be eligible for a QSI, employees must–

  • Be below step 10 of their grade level;
  • Have received the highest rating of record available under their performance management program (for appraisal programs that do not include Level 5, Outstanding or equivalent, this includes meeting additional agency-established criteria used to identify an outstanding level of performance);
  • Have demonstrated sustained performance of outstanding quality;
  • Not have received a QSI within the preceding 52 consecutive calendar weeks; and
  • Occupy a “permanent position”.

Temporary Appointments

An employee on a temporary appointment is not eligible for a QSI.

The law describes a QSI as “an additional step increase.” An employee is eligible for a QSI only if he or she is eligible for a WGI. WGIs apply only to GS employees occupying permanent positions.

“Permanent position” means a position filled by an employee whose appointment is not designated as temporary and does not have a definite time limitation of 1 year or less.

Effective Date of a QSI

Generally, the QSI should be made effective as soon as practicable after it is approved, usually at the beginning of the next pay period, and as close as practicable to the rating of record upon which it is based.

Timing Matters

A QSI does not affect the timing of an employee’s next regular within-grade increase, unless the QSI places the employee in step 4 or step 7 of his or her grade. In these cases, the employee must complete the full waiting period for the new step, 104 weeks for steps 4-6 or 156 weeks for steps 7-9. However, the time an employee has already waited is not lost; it continues to count towards the waiting period for the next step increase. The QSI provides the employee the benefit of receiving an additional step increase at an earlier date than he or she originally would have without losing any time creditable towards his or her next WGI.

Example: An employee received her last WGI to step 3 in January 2011. In October 2011, the employee receives a QSI to step 4, which places her in a 104-week waiting period before she is eligible to receive a WGI to step 5, assuming satisfactory performance.

The employee will advance to step 5 in January 2013, which completes the waiting period of 104 weeks from the employee’s last WGI (January 2011). Without the benefit of the QSI, she would have gotten a WGI taking her to step 4 in January 2012, and she would have had to wait until January 2014 to reach step 5.

Processing a QSI with Simultaneous Pay Actions

An agency must first process any general pay adjustments and apply the geographic conversion rule, if applicable, before processing a QSI with the same effective date.

An agency must process any promotion action after processing a QSI with the same effective date.

QSI During Temporary Promotions

A QSI must be applied to the rate of pay for the position on which the rating of record was based.

If the rating of record was based on the employee’s performance in the temporary promotion, the QSI must be based on the rate of pay for the temporary position. When the temporary promotion terminates, the employee will lose the benefit of the QSI because pay is set in the lower grade as if the employee had not been temporarily promoted, unless the agency sets pay at a higher rate under the maximum payable rate rule in 5 CFR 531.221.

If the rating of record was based on the employee’s performance in the permanent position, the QSI cannot be awarded based on the rate of pay received during the temporary promotion. The employee would receive the QSI after termination of the temporary promotion when the employee returns to the lower-graded position.


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