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Senior Executive Service Senior Executive Service FAQs

Impact of Pay Freeze Legislation on Senior Executive Service Employees

  • The pay freeze does not apply to performance awards paid under 5 U.S.C. 5384 and 5 CFR 534.405.
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  • While one of the criteria that reflect the application of agency appraisal systems is the agency's pay differentiation, OPM would consider the impact of the freeze when considering agency certification requests. Agencies will need to maintain their SES performance appraisal system certification in order to use the full SES rate range up to Executive Schedule Level II to hire new executives. While certification allows agencies to pay higher rates and use a higher aggregate limit on pay, this is not the sole purpose of certification. The certification process ensures agencies review their appraisal systems and the effectiveness of their executive performance plans. The criteria for certification require agency performance appraisal systems to provide for, and performance plans to execute, the following: alignment of executive performance requirements to agency mission; predominant focus on measurable results-based requirements; balanced measures, including customer and employee perspective; and accountability for effective performance management of subordinates.
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  • Such pay increases are precluded by the pay freeze. Section 147(c) of the Act applies "notwithstanding any other provision of law" to restrict a senior executive from receiving an increase in his or her rate of basic pay during the designated period. The Act also includes the criteria for an exception in that section - i.e., increases based on "a change of position that results in a substantial increase in responsibility, or a promotion." An agency may have its PRBs make recommendations on exceptions consistent with the pay freeze law, but pay adjustments that are based upon the results of a recently completed performance appraisal cycle do not meet the criteria for this exception.
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  • The pay freeze will be in effect during the period beginning on January 1, 2011, and ending on December 31, 2013 (see Compensation Policy Memorandum 2013-05).
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  • No. An agency may involuntarily reduce a career senior executive's rate of basic pay under 5 CFR 534.404(j) for performance or disciplinary reasons subject to restrictions on reducing the pay of senior executives in 5 CFR 534.404(b) and 534.404(c) or on setting pay below the minimum rate of the SES rate range in 5 CFR 534.403(a). However, an agency should take the duration of the pay freeze into account when assessing the appropriate reduction for a senior executive. Under 5 CFR 534.404(c), a senior executive whose pay is reduced but who resolves any problems and demonstrates stronger performance has the opportunity for a pay increase after 12 months, but the pay freeze can impose a significantly longer waiting period. For example, a pay reduction done during the period of the pay freeze is fixed until the end of the pay freeze-absent a change of position that meets the criteria in section 147(c) of the Act for an exception.
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  • No, the pay freeze does not apply to these awards.
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  • Yes. For purposes of pay and benefits, a senior executive on detail continues to encumber the position from which he or she is detailed. Agencies may not grant a pay increase to an SES member detailed to another position because no change of position has occurred for purposes of pay and benefits. The same is true of an SES member assigned to "act" in a position of substantially greater responsibility rather than reassigned to that position.
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  • Under section 147(c) of the Act, an agency may grant a basic pay increase to an SES member who transfers from another agency only if the change of position results in a substantial increase in responsibility and consistent with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. Once granted, the pay adjustment would initiate a 12-month restriction. The agency determines whether a pay increase is justified under section 147(c) under such procedures as the agency head may establish. The procedures should include, as appropriate, review by an official at a higher level than the agency official otherwise authorized to set pay and must ensure verification and objective comparison of the positions' relative responsibilities.
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  • Since the rate range is not increasing, an SES member's rate will not fall below the range minimum as a result of a range adjustment.
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  • The pay freeze precludes such increases because they do not meet the criteria for the exception in section 147(c) of the Act. Additionally, the underlying pay rates that determine the SES rate range will remain unchanged until the pay freeze ends - i.e., 120 percent of the minimum rate of basic pay payable for GS-15 of the General Schedule and the rates of basic pay for level III and level II of the Executive Schedule. Since the SES pay rate range will not change, agencies will not need to adjust a senior executive's rate of basic pay to maintain his or her relative position within the rate range.
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  • Yes. The pay freeze legislation does not affect performance appraisal requirements or restrict performance awards.
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  • Under section 147(c) of the Act, an agency may grant a basic pay increase to an SES member upon voluntary or involuntary reassignment only if the change of position results in a substantial increase in responsibility and consistent with any other applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. For example, such a pay increase would be subject to the 12-month restriction at 5 CFR 534.404(c). Therefore, when such an increase is granted within 12 months of the senior executive's most recent pay increase, it would require an exception under 5 CFR 534.404(c)(4)(ii) in addition to the exception under section 147(c) of the Act. Once granted, the pay adjustment would initiate a new 12-month restriction. If more than 12 months have passed since the senior executive's last basic pay adjustment, the agency may determine whether a pay increase is justified under section 147(c) under such procedures as the agency head may establish. The procedures should include, as appropriate, review by an official at a higher level than the agency official otherwise authorized to take the pay action and must ensure verification and objective comparison of the positions' relative responsibilities.
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  • To meet the certification criteria, agencies are expected to make distinctions in rates of pay, pay increases, and/or performance awards. The Act only freezes pay adjustments, and does not affect the agency's ability to grant performance awards to career executives. Therefore, agencies can make the pay distinctions required for performance appraisal system certification in their bonus decisions. OPM is aware the Act prohibits agencies from making pay increases and would consider this in applying the certification criteria.
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  • Public Law prohibits statutory pay adjustments for most federal civilian employees as well as basic pay increases for employees in senior executive (SES), senior level (SL) and scientific or professional (ST) and equivalent positions, except as permitted in rare instances under specific circumstances (see Section 147 of the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 (Pub. L. 111-242, September 30, 2010), as amended by section 1(a) of the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Extensions Act, 2011 (Pub. L. 111-322, December 22, 2010) and section 1112 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 (Pub. L. 113-6, March 26, 2013) and Attachment 1 of Compensation Policy Memorandum 2010-24).
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