We have said in numerous articles that the federal civil service is changing fast. Many of the comments from readers have been negative as people are afraid of pay for performance or concerned about losing extensive appeal rights unique to the federal workforce.
But here are some changes many readers will like.
The House has passed “The Federal Workforce Flexibility Act.” The Senate passed its version of the bill in April. A conference committee will work out the differences before sending the legislation to President Bush.
The legislative change is part of an effort to recruit and retain federal employees in jobs that are hard to fill. That probably does not include most federal positions but will have an impact in some hot fields, such as computer engineers and programmers, where there is frequently competition from private companies looking for the same skills agencies need.
For those hard to fill positions, an agency will be able to offer a bonus of up to 100 percent of a current or prospective employee’s salary.
Only general schedule employees will be eligible for the bonuses. The bill would allow federal agencies to pay a bonus to qualified employees who are appointed or relocated to positions that are hard to fill. One catch is that those accepting the bonuses have to remain for up to four years.
The retention and relocation bonus would usually be paid in installments over the four year period. The recruitment bonuses could be paid upfront. Political appointees would be treated differently as they would not be eligible for the bonus programs.
To keep current employees around the workplace if they are tempted to leave, agencies could pay bonuses of up to 25 percent of that employee’s base pay.
And, one item that will impact a number of current federal employees: it also provides compensatory time off for employees who have to travel outside of normal working hours.
There is also something extra for potential Senior Executive Service appointees. One problem in bringing in senior executives to government from the private sector is time off from work. The civil service has operated as a uniform system for decades and assumed that the most senior employees will have worked for Uncle Sam for their entire careers. But for a new employee coming from the private sector, often with a number of years of experience, the current system doesn’t allow much flexibility in giving the new senior manager time off from work.
The new legislation allows SES members coming from the private sector to receive the same vacation benefits given to career federal employees. Some other workers hired from private companies also will receive credit for previous work experience when calculating how much vacation time to be given.
Welcome to the new world of the federal civil service.