New rule lets agencies give bonuses to blue-collar workers

Agencies can offer recruitment and relocation bonuses and retention allowances to wage-grade employees under a new rule published by the Office of Personnel Management in the Federal Register Friday. Until now, only the OPM director could authorize bonuses for wage-grade employees upon the request of an agency head. Under the new rule, agencies now have the discretion to offer the bonuses to wage-grade employees in an effort to keep them from going to higher-paying jobs. Agencies have long had the discretion to offer lump-sum recruitment bonuses to newly appointed white-collar employees and retention bonuses to white-collar employees with high-demand skills who planned to leave the government. Many agency officials have voiced concerns over potential staffing problems in the blue-collar workforce. The demand for the new rule was emphatic. When OPM proposed it in January, one agency official asked that the final rule be issued as soon as possible so managers could use the new authority immediately to address human capital issues. The government employs about 200,000 blue-collar workers under the wage-grade pay system, according to OPM statistics. OPM is also considering a suggested rule allowing agencies to offer bonuses to employees seeking to move elsewhere in the government. Retention, recruitment and one-time relocation bonuses are capped at 25 percent of an employee's annual rate of basic pay.
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