Interim regulations released for new incentives

The new rules will allow increased incentives for recruitment and relocation at federal agencies.

The Office of Personnel Management announced interim regulations Thursday to increase the size and flexibility of inducements that agencies can use to improve recruitment and retention.

As a result of the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act, federal agencies already were able to use bonuses and to encourage key employees to relocate to vital areas. The new incentives are a result of the 2004 Federal Workforce Flexibility Act, which was signed into law last October.

"The regulations we are issuing today replace the regulations that were previously in place," said Donald Winstead, OPM's deputy associate director for pay and performance policy.

Employees who are in service agreements under the old provisions will be grandfathered into the new arrangement, according to Winstead. OPM posted the interim regulations on its Web site Thursday, and the regulations will go into effect Friday, when they are published in the Federal Register.

The new rules will increase the options that agencies have for paying out incentives and will increase the potential amount of certain of them. Under the old recruitment and relocation bonus rules, employees could receive a maximum of 25 percent of their annual salary, not counting locality pay. Under the new interim regulations, employees can receive up to 100 percent of their pay-including locality pay-for recruitment and relocation bonuses.

OPM officials briefed agency chief human capital officers on the release of the interim regulations.

"We got in touch with them earlier this week," Winstead said. "Next week, we are going to be having an opportunity for agency human resources officials to sit down with us and hear about more of the details and get some practical examples of how these authorities can be applied."

OPM decided not to include one of the law's provisions in the interim regulations. It would have allowed the awarding of incentives for recruitment between agencies in the federal government. OPM officials said they were concerned that the process could be detrimental to the government.

Ron Sanders, OPM associate director for strategic human resources policy, said he believes the law gives his agency the discretion to exclude the provision from the interim rules. He said also that OPM officials will brief congressional staff on the regulations in the near future.