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New Rules for Crediting Performance in a Reduction in Force

New Rules for Crediting Performance in a Reduction in Force

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published final regulations on reduction in force (RIF) and performance management that place greater emphasis on actual performance when crediting performance in a RIF and give agencies greater flexibility when awarding additional retention service credit based on performance. The regulations also make other technical and clarifying changes to both the reduction in force and performance management regulations. The final regulations appeared in the Federal Register on November 24, 1997 (Volume 62, Number 226, pages 62495-62504). 


When these regulatory changes were first proposed in February 1997, then were summarized in the February issue of Workforce Performance. Most of the proposed changes have been made final. However, in response to agency concerns, two proposals were eliminated:

  • the proposal to lengthen from 4 years to 6 years the period of time prior to the RIF that the agency uses to find the three most recent ratings of record; and
  • the proposal to assign assumed "Fully Successful" ratings of record to employees with less than 1 year of service who otherwise have no ratings of record.

This article provides an overview of the published changes. The next several issues of Workforce Performance will include more in-depth explanations of the changes pertaining to crediting performance in a RIF, as well as the technical and clarifying changes made in the performance management regulations. Technical and clarifying changes in RIF regulations which are not related to those pertaining to crediting performance in a RIF are posted on OPM ONLINE in the reduction in force forum; select forum "K." In addition, you may telephone Jacqueline Yeatmand or Tom Glennon of OPM's Workforce Restructuring Office at 202-606-0960.

Greater Use of Actual Performance

The Office of Personnel Management has increased the emphasis on actual performance when granting additional retention service credit by eliminating the use of "assumed" ratings for employees with fewer than 3 ratings of record within the 4-year time frame before the reduction in force. Instead, agencies will provide additional retention credit on the basis of an average of the ratings of record that do exist for that time frame or on the basis of the modal rating (i.e., the most frequent rating level) for the summary pattern of the appraisal program covering the employee's position of record.

Retention Service Credit

Agencies now have greater flexibility to set the amount of credit for each summary rating level within its pattern whenever the employees in a competitive area have ratings under different patterns of summary rating levels. However, in cases where all the ratings for employees in a reduction in force competitive area are under the same pattern of summary levels, the agency must continue to use the current values for crediting performance in that RIF. This new flexibility applies only to ratings of record recorded on or after October 1, 1997.

Other Changes

In addition to the changes regarding calculation of reduction in force retention credit, the performance management regulations have been changed to clarify that:

  • critical elements may be used to measure only individual performance;
  • non-critical elements may not be used in appraisal programs that summarize performance at only two levels (pass/fail); and
  • each appraisal program may designate only one appraisal period that generally shall be 12 months in length.

Finally, the regulations pertaining to the determination of an acceptable level of competence for within-grade increases have been clarified to affirm that such determinations may be delayed in two and only two circumstances:

  • when an employee has not served under elements and standards for the minimum period specified by the pertinent appraisal program; or
  • when an employee is reduced in grade because of unacceptable performance to a position in which he or she is eligible for a within-grade increase or will become eligible within the minimum period.

Effective Date

The regulations were effective December 24, 1997, however, agencies have some flexibility in deciding when to implement certain provisions related to credit for performance and notices of eligibility for reemployment and other placement assistance.

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