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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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OPM Outlines Pay Changes, the Future of Long-Term Care and More

Last week, the Office of Personnel Management, in conjunction with the Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget, released its first quarterly report on how to implement the cross-agency priorities outlined by President Trump’s management agenda.

The document featured a laundry list of reforms to the hiring process, performance management procedures and ways to reward top performers. Among the planned initiatives is an effort by the government’s HR agency to identify “leading practices” surrounding cash bonuses and recruitment and retention and relocation incentives to attract and keep high performing employees. OPM and the Defense Department will also develop best practices for “alternative personnel systems” by the end of 2018.

In addition, the document outlines opportunities to introduce automation throughout the federal government. As NexGov’s Jack Corrigan writes, according to OPM, 60 percent of federal occupations could have at least 30 percent of their activities automated, and 5 percent of federal jobs could be eliminated altogether in favor of automation.

“Although the impact of machine assistance varies by occupation, the use of automation has the potential to provide employees with time to focus on more important work,” officials wrote. “Reskilling and redeployment strategies may be required to...

OPM Updates Weather Policies, Career Tenure Rules and More

The Office of Personnel Management on Tuesday announced new regulations governing time off for weather-related events, a move that could leave telework employees in the cold.

In a memo to agencies, OPM Director Jeff Pon said the new rules, implemented as a result of the 2016 Administrative Leave Act, bar departments from granting paid weather-related leave to employees whose telework agreements allow them to do their work from home.

“It is particularly noteworthy that, under the new statute, an agency will be unable, in most circumstances, to grant weather and safety leave to an employee who is a telework participant and able to safely perform telework at the employee’s home,” Pon wrote. “The new provision will apply regardless of what is stated (or not stated) in the employee’s telework agreement and in agency policies and agreements.”

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Paid time off as a result of snow or other weather making it unsafe to travel will still be available to feds who work at an agency office or a telework site. There are also some cases where someone authorized to work from home could still be...

Pay Changes for Defense Civilians, a Request for a Time and Attendance Study, and More

In a memo to agency leaders last week, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon highlighted a number of changes and extensions to civilian employee pay programs at the Defense Department, all of which were a result of the National Defense Authorization Act signed last fall.

The Reserve Income Replacement Program, a Defense program to reimburse reservists who have been on repeated or extended active duty deployments for income lost while not at their day job, will now run until Dec. 31, 2018. The extension does not apply to differential payments, a similar but separate program for reservists who also are federal workers.

Also extended until the end of 2018 is the authority for an agency head to waive premium pay caps for qualifying civilians working overseas. In order to be considered for a pay cap waiver, a federal employee must work overseas either in an area under the responsibility of the U.S. Central Command, or a region that was once under Central Command but now is part of U.S. Africa Command’s responsibility. Additionally, the pay cap after a waiver will increase to $243,500 for 2018.

Pon said that OPM does not plan to issue new...

GAO Improperly Distributed Overtime for Some; New Move to Disclose Federal Bonuses

The inspector general at the Government Accountability Office reported this week that the watchdog agency improperly spent nearly $80,000 on unscheduled overtime pay for criminal investigators who did not qualify for it, and questioned the need to authorize overtime at all.

In fiscal 2017, GAO’s Forensic Audits and Investigative Service employed eight criminal investigators, who conduct some investigative activities for the agency as well as manage its FraudNet hotline. In fiscal 2017, all eight were certified to receive Law Enforcement Availability Pay, a program that authorizes premium pay for federal investigators who are often required to work excessive or unusual hours.

But the agency IG found that the vast majority of the hours authorized for LEAP pay were for overtime availability, rather than hours actually worked. And five of the eight investigators improperly were authorized to receive LEAP pay due to a mistake in how GAO’s timecard system calculated overtime availability needs.

According to the report, GAO spent $149,026 on LEAP pay for the eight investigators in fiscal 2017. But of the 4,973 LEAP hours reported by FAIS, only 21 percent were reported as unscheduled overtime hours actually worked. The remaining 79 percent were classified...

Trump Administration Targets Federal Compensation, Telework

The Trump administration’s new management agenda, released earlier this week, has significant implications for federal pay and benefits.

The agenda frames the issue by noting that “it is important to appropriately compensate personnel based on mission needs and labor market dynamics,” something the existing compensation system fails to do. The document then repeats the fiscal 2019 budget proposal to forgo an across-the-board pay increase while realigning “incentives by enhancing performance-based pay and slowing the frequency of tenure-based step increases.”

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The White House has asked lawmakers to create a $1 billion “interagency workforce fund” in fiscal 2018 for “targeted pay incentives” for employees. To that end, the Office of Management and Budget said it will work with Congress to overhaul statutes and regulations in need of updating.

In addition to pay reforms, the management agenda also reiterated a proposal to alter retirement benefits. Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon said that requiring feds to wait five years to vest into their pensions “just doesn’t make sense” for the modern workforce. The administration has proposed moving away from pensions altogether and toward a defined-contribution...