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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Retirement Claims Wane, a Tweak to Rules for Resigning From Your Job and More

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday issued a memo tweaking the rules governing how agencies handle employees who resign while under investigation.

In a memo to chief human capital officers, OPM Director Jeff Pon implemented a new provision of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requiring agencies to make a “permanent notation” on the personnel file of someone who leaves his or her job while an investigation into the employee is ongoing. Such investigations include those done by an inspector general and adverse personnel actions for performance or misconduct.

Pon wrote that the notation should be applied to one’s record only after the person has been given an opportunity to respond to the findings of an investigation. The new procedure does not impact an employee’s ability to appeal the findings of an investigation or adverse action to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and if the employee wins, the agency would remove the notation from his or her record.

The NDAA provision neither provides guidance for implementation nor grants OPM the authority to draft regulations on the subject. Pon suggested that agencies implement the new rules in consultation with legal counsel.

“We have attached a sample document that...

Changes to the Federal Health Insurance Program, Agency Leader Cuts His Own Pay, and More

Enrollees in the health insurance program for federal employees could see some additional options available to them during the next open enrollment period next fall.

The Office of Personnel Management published a rule last week in the Federal Register standardizing how many and what kinds of plans any given insurance carrier can offer through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Under previous regulations, the minimum standards for plans offered through FEHBP required that some insurance companies provide two options as well as a high deductible plan, whereas other companies were able to choose between offering that configuration or providing three plans of any kind.

The new rule, which went into effect April 27, allows all FEHBP insurance companies to choose between offering three plans of any kind and providing two standard options and a high deductible plan.

“To correct an asymmetry in the insurance market for federal employees and annuitants, this final regulation provides all [FEHBP] carriers the ability to offer the same number and types of plan options,” OPM wrote. “[This] final rule will give FEHB enrollees more choices in selecting a health plan that best meets their family’s health care needs.”

Meanwhile on Monday, OPM announced the...

Federal Workforce Training and Education, Digital Personnel Records and More

Federal officials on Tuesday discussed opportunities both now and in the long term for improving the recruitment and retention of highly skilled federal workers, providing professional development and helping them achieve career goals.

At an Office of Personnel Management event hosted by Government Executive Media Group’s custom publishing arm, Studio 2G, personnel officials from OPM and the Office of Management and Budget discussed a variety of issues broached in President Trump’s management agenda, from the hiring process and workforce planning to employee engagement and reskilling.

“Obviously there’s a tremendous amount of interest in how to address hiring, and part of it is to make sure agencies know what is available to them today,” said Mark Reinhold, OPM’s associate director for employee services. “There are dozens of hiring authorities out there, and some are used more and others are used less, and some not at all. Beyond that, there’s great interest at OPM and under Director Dr. Jeff Pon and within the administration and on Capitol Hill to look at civil service modernization.”

Dustin Brown, the deputy assistant director for performance and personnel management at OMB, also stressed that improving the hiring process to attract top...

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...