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OPM Proposes Making It Easier to Rehire Former Feds

Under a new plan from the Office of Personnel Management, federal agencies would be able to rehire former federal workers at a higher pay grade than their previous job, provided they were high performers.

The Office of Personnel Management this week will propose a new rule that would allow federal agencies a new way to rehire former federal workers outside the competitive hiring process.

Currently, if an agency wishes to eschew the traditional hiring process to bring back a former employee, it must be for a position at the same pay grade or lower. But since candidates often seek an increase in salary during their job hunt, this tool has limited utility.

According to a proposed rule scheduled for posting in the Federal Register Thursday, OPM officials hope to expand the use of rehiring federal workers outside the competitive hiring process by allowing agencies to bring them back at a higher pay grade.

“Oftentimes, when an individual leaves federal service, he or she acquires skills and/or experience that may qualify the individual for a position at a higher grade level than the one the individual held prior to leaving government,” OPM wrote. “[The] proposed rules allow an agency to reinstate a former career or career-conditional employee without competition, and regardless of the promotion potential, to a position at a grade level higher than that previously held by that individual to provide greater flexibility to agencies when they need to reinstate a former federal employee.”

In order to qualify for being rehired outside the competitive process, a former federal employee must fulfill two criteria: they must have quit their previous agency job at least one year prior to rehiring, and they must have been rated at least "fully successful" in their final performance review in their old position.

OPM said that the reason for the one-year rule is twofold. First, it establishes private sector experience as equivalent to the “specialized experience” required of a federal employee who is promoted to the next full grade level. And it prevents feds from quitting and getting quickly reinstated in order to avoid the specialized experience requirement.

If a former federal worker either does not wait a full year before pursuing a job in the government, or did not receive a fully successful performance rating, they still must go through the competitive hiring process for higher paying jobs.

The proposed rule is the latest in a number of initiatives aimed at making it easier for agencies to hire. Trump administration officials have frequently talked about the need to make it easier for federal employees to leave and return to government employment throughout their careers.

And earlier this year, the Health and Human Services Department and the National Park Service successfully completed pilot programs where HR officials brought subject matter experts into the hiring process and used a combination of regular resumes and supplemental skills assessments to identify qualified candidates, rather than the standard federal resume review process.