Not all agencies will decide referral bonuses are right for them. However, when an agency decides it wants to take advantage of this additional tool to help find candidates for hard-to-fill positions, an agency will need to establish the policies under which it will grant such awards. Whether the agency creates a formal award specifically designed and named for this purpose or simply establishes the practice within its regular awards program, any agency making such awards should have in place specific criteria that guide its use of referral bonuses. In establishing and operating its referral bonus program, an agency must assure the program does not conflict with or violate any law or Governmentwide regulation (5 CFR 451.106). Specifically, the agency is accountable for ensuring the referral bonus program does not violate the legal requirements for broad public awareness of job openings; recruitment from appropriate sources to seek a workforce drawn from all segments of society; and hiring selections based solely on relative ability, knowledge, and skills after a fair and open competition that assures equal opportunity to all candidates (5 U.S.C. 2301(b)(1), 2301(b)(2), 5 CFR 2.1(a), 4.2; EEOC Compliance Manual, section 15).
In developing their criteria, agencies should address the following issues:
The following table provides examples of referral bonus practices. These examples come from research into actual award practices in both the private and public sectors. They are provided to give agencies an idea of what is being done in this area and what such programs could look like. Agencies are free to adopt one of these approaches, use different combinations of the various practices listed, or design a new approach, as long as they stay within the flexibilities allowed by the awards statute and comply with all other applicable laws and regulations.
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