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Relocation Incentives

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

An agency may pay a relocation incentive to a current employee who must relocate to accept a position in a different geographic area if the agency determines that the position is likely be difficult to fill in the absence of an incentive. A relocation incentive may be paid only when the employee’s rating of record under an official performance appraisal or evaluation system is at least “Fully Successful” or equivalent.


Covered Positions


A relocation 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


Relocation 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.


Relocation to Different Geographic Area


Relocation incentives may be paid to an employee of the Federal Government who must relocate to a different geographic area without a break in service to accept a position in an agency or to an employee of an agency who must relocate to a different geographic area (permanently or temporarily) to accept a position. A position is considered to be in a different geographic area if the worksite of the new position is 50 or more miles from the worksite of the position held immediately before the move. If the worksite of the new position is less than 50 miles from the worksite of the position held immediately before the move, but the employee must relocate (i.e., establish a new residence) to accept the position, an authorized agency official may waive the 50-mile requirement and pay the employee a relocation incentive. In all cases, an employee must establish a residence in the new geographic area before the agency may pay the employee a relocation incentive.


Agency Plan


Before paying a relocation incentive, an agency must establish a relocation incentive plan. The plan must include the designation of officials with authority to review and approve the payment of relocation incentives, the categories of employees who may not receive relocation incentives, the required documentation for determining that a position is likely to be difficult to fill, requirements for determining the amount of a relocation 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 relocation incentive plan must apply uniformly across the agency.


Approval Criteria


For each relocation incentive authorized, 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 relocation incentive, the amount and timing of the incentive payments, the length of the service period, and that the worksite of the new position is in a different geographic area than the previous position. The determination to pay a relocation incentive must be made before the employee enters on duty in the position at the new duty station. Agency determinations to pay a relocation incentive must generally be made on a case-by-case basis.

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 relocation incentive based on a consideration of the factors listed in 5 CFR 575.206(b). An agency may also 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 waive the case-by-case approval requirement when the employee is a member of a group of employees subject to a mobility agreement or when a major organizational unit is being relocated to a new duty station. Under such a waiver, an agency must specify the group of employees covered, the conditions under which the waiver is approved, and the period of time during which the waiver may be applied. Groups of employees must be approved for relocation incentives using the same criteria that apply to individuals. (See 5 CFR 575.208(b).)


Payment


A relocation 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 raised 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 575.209©.) 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. The agency may not pay a relocation incentive until the employee establishes a residence in the new geographic area.


Rate of Basic Pay


For the purpose of calculating a relocation 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 relocation incentive is not part of an employee’s rate of basic pay for any purpose.


Aggregate Pay Limitation


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


Service Agreement


Before receiving a relocation incentive, an employee must sign a written agreement to complete a specified period of employment with the agency at the new duty station. 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 relocation incentive.


Service Period


The employee’s required service period may not exceed 4 years. The service period must begin upon the commencement of service at the new duty station 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 575.210(b).


Termination of a Service Agreement


Discretionary


An agency may unilaterally terminate a relocation incentive service agreement based solely on the management needs of the agency, in which case the employee is entitled to relocation 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 relocation 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 relocation incentive service agreement.

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


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