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Recruitment Incentives

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

An agency may pay a recruitment incentive to a newly-appointed employee if the agency has determined that the position is likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of an incentive. Covered Positions

A recruitment incentive may be paid to an eligible individual who is appointed to a General Schedule (GS), senior-level (SL), scientific or professional (ST), Senior Executive Service (SES), Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration (FBI/DEA) SES, Executive Schedule (EX), law enforcement officer, or prevailing rate position. OPM may approve other categories for coverage upon written request from the head of the employing agency.


Excluded Positions


Recruitment incentives may not be paid to Presidential appointees; noncareer appointees in the Senior Executive Service; those in positions excepted from the competitive service by reason of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating natures; agency heads; or those expected to receive an appointment as an agency head. “Newly Appointed”

Recruitment incentives may be paid to an employee who is newly appointed to the Federal Government. “Newly appointed” refers to the first appointment (regardless of tenure) as an employee of the Federal Government, an appointment following a break in service of at least 90 days from a previous appointment as an employee of the Federal Government, or, in certain cases, an appointment following a break in service of less than 90 days from a previous appointment as an employee of the Federal Government. (See the definition of “newly appointed” at 5 CFR 575.102.)


Agency Plan


Before paying a recruitment incentive, an agency must establish a recruitment incentive plan. The plan must include the designation of officials with authority to review and approve the payment of recruitment incentives, the categories of employees who may not receive recruitment incentives, the required documentation for determining that a position is likely to be difficult to fill, requirements for determining the amount of a recruitment incentive, the payment methods that may be authorized, requirements governing service agreements (including criteria for determining the length of a service period, the conditions for terminating a service agreement, and the obligations of the agency and the employee if a service agreement is terminated), and documentation and recordkeeping requirements. Unless the head of the agency determines otherwise, an agency recruitment incentive plan must apply uniformly across the agency.


Approval Criteria


For each determination to pay a recruitment incentive, an agency must document in writing the basis for determining that the position is likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of a recruitment incentive, the amount and timing of the incentive payments, and the length of the service period. The determination to pay a recruitment incentive must be made before the prospective employee enters on duty in the position for which recruited.

An agency may determine that a position is likely to be difficult to fill if the agency is likely to have difficulty recruiting candidates with the competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics) required for the position (or group of positions) in the absence of a recruitment incentive based on a consideration of the factors listed in 5 CFR 575.106(b). An agency also may determine that a position is likely to be difficult to fill if OPM has approved the use of a direct-hire authority applicable to the position.


Groups of Employees


An agency may target groups of similar positions that have been difficult to fill in the past or that are likely to be difficult to fill in the future and may make the required determination to offer a recruitment incentive on a group basis.


Payment


A recruitment incentive may not exceed 25 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay in effect at the beginning of the service period multiplied by the number of years (including fractions of a year) in the service period (not to exceed 4 years). With OPM approval, this cap may be increased to 50 percent (based on a critical agency need), as long as the total incentive does not exceed 100 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay at the beginning of the service period. (See 5 CFR 575.109©.) The incentive may be paid as an initial lump-sum payment at the beginning of the service period, in installments throughout the service period, as a final-lump sum payment upon completion of the service period, or in a combination of these methods. An incentive may be paid to an individual not yet employed who has received a written offer of employment and signed a written service agreement.


Rate of Basic Pay


For the purpose of calculating a recruitment incentive, an employee’s rate of basic pay includes a special rate under 5 CFR part 530, subpart C, a locality payment under 5 CFR part 531, subpart F, or similar payment under other legal authority, but excludes additional pay of any other kind. A recruitment incentive is not part of an employee’s rate of basic pay for any purpose.


Aggregate Pay Limitation


Payment of a recruitment incentive is subject to the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 CFR part 530, subpart B.


Service Agreement


Before receiving a recruitment incentive, an employee must sign a written agreement to complete a specified period of employment with the agency. The service agreement must specify the length, commencement, and termination dates of the service period; the amount of the incentive; the method and timing of incentive payments; the conditions under which an agreement will be terminated by the agency; any agency or employee obligations if a service agreement is terminated (including the conditions under which the employee must repay an incentive or under which the agency must make additional payments for partially completed service); and any other terms and conditions for receiving and retaining a recruitment incentive.


Service Period


The employee’s required service period may not be less than 6 months and may not exceed 4 years. The service period must begin upon the commencement of service with the agency and end on the last day of a pay period. The commencement of the service period may be delayed under certain conditions described in 5 CFR 575.110(b).


Termination of a Service Agreement


Discretionary


An agency may unilaterally terminate a recruitment incentive service agreement based solely on the management needs of the agency, in which case the employee is entitled to recruitment incentive payments attributable to completed service and to retain any incentive payments already received that are attributable to uncompleted service.


Mandatory


An agency must terminate a service agreement if an employee is demoted or separated for cause (i.e., for unacceptable performance or conduct), receives a rating of record lower than “Fully Successful” or equivalent during the service period, or otherwise fails to fulfill the terms of the service agreement. In such cases, the employee may retain any recruitment incentive payments attributable to completed service, but must repay any portion of the incentive attributable to uncompleted service. The agency is not obligated to pay the employee any outstanding incentive payment attributable to completed service unless such payment was required under the terms of the recruitment incentive service agreement.

An agency must notify an employee in writing when it terminates a recruitment incentive service agreement. The termination of a service agreement is not grievable or appealable.


Return to the Special Incentives page


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