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Higher TSP Contributions Kick In, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The Thrift Savings Plan last week implemented changes to how it automatically enrolls new federal employees and members of the military, increasing the rate at which new workers contribute to their retirement savings accounts by default.

All new federal employees and military service members who begin work on or after Oct. 1 automatically contribute 5% of their salaries to their TSP accounts, guaranteeing they receive the full employer match. Once enrolled, participants still may adjust their contribution rate as they see fit. Employees who are already enrolled in the TSP will not see a change to their contributions.

In a bulletin published Monday by the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center, which processes payroll for more than 600,000 employees across the federal government, the payroll provider encouraged agencies to inform new and rehired employees of the default 5% contribution rate and explained how feds can quickly change their contribution rate if they so choose.

“Employees may elect to immediately terminate their automatic TSP enrollment,” the bulletin stated. “In order to terminate their automatic TSP enrollment, employees must complete Form TSP-1, Election Form, and submit it to their servicing personnel office. Employees may also terminate their automatic TSP enrollment through the Employee Personal Page. If an employee terminates automatic TSP enrollment within the first pay period of hire or rehire, no contributions will be deducted from the employee’s pay.”

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers have continued to work on measures that would offer additional protections to federal workers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, the House passed legislation requiring the heads of federal agencies to publish detailed reopening plans at least 30 days before employees return to their physical offices.

The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act, named for a federal contractor who died after COVID-19 at a federal worksite in Virginia, also would require inspectors general to compile reports cataloging whether their agencies followed the plans and whether they complied with requirements related to personal protective equipment, social distancing, and other measures aimed at preventing the spread of the deadly virus.

And Democrats in both the House and Senate last week introduced legislation that would guarantee that all federal employees would be able to keep all of their annual leave next year, rather than only 30 days as is normally the case.

In August, the Office of Personnel Management declared that the coronavirus pandemic is an exigency of the public business, meaning that essential workers who were unable to use their leave due to pandemic response efforts would not be subject to the “use it or lose it” annual leave cap. But OPM left it up to individual agencies to decide which employees are eligible for this waiver.

The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act would waive the 30-day leave cap for all federal employees. Proponents of the bill argued that many federal workers have foregone annual leave in an effort to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19 so that they may continue to serve the American people uninterrupted, regardless of how their employing agencies classify their work.