OPM Encourages Use of Referral Bonuses: Get a Friend to Apply for a Job with Uncle Sam and Make a Few Bucks

OPM is encouraging agencies to utilize their flexibilities to pay bonuses to current employees who get people to apply for government jobs. The author asks a few questions about the impact of this on labor relations and agency budgets.

In August, OPM published a Q&A on Referral Bonuses  in which it made clear that this benefit was subject to Agency interpretation and arises from the Agency’s authority to grant incentive awards. On another web page, OPM discusses criteria Agencies might apply to decide who’s eligible to get some cash or time off.

Agriculture, DOD and FAA have programs you can look at on the web.

DOD’s program allows up to $3000 or up to 24 hours off work under certain circumstances.  One interesting note is that it must be easier to get Army recruits than Federal employees since Army’s only giving a maximum of $2000 for soldiers and then only if they get out of basic training successfully.

There’s a cautionary note on administration since a bunch of University of Maryland Medical Center folks are likely to get new jobs in the slammer after bilking the organization for over $300,000 in phony bonuses.

So what are some issues to be concerned about?  It appears that since this program is subject to broad Agency discretion, it’s a negotiable working condition which makes it bargainable.  Also, since there are no apparent limits to the payouts, I guess OPM is leaving Agencies to the tender mercies of the Impasses Panel.  Since Agencies may not be able to control the cost of the program based on an imposed system, where’s the money to come from?

Another interesting conundrum might arise if employees really get involved.  For example, let’s say I’m now working a four/ten schedule and I spend my day off recruiting applicants for whom I get 8 hours of time off for each applicant each.  If I get five recruits every week, does that mean every day is a day off for me?

Sorry OPM, I couldn’t help it.  Despite my criticism, this looks like a good idea in those Agencies having trouble recruiting.  In others, well, you be the judge.

As always any opinion expressed is only my responsibility.

About the Author

Bob Gilson is a consultant with a specialty in working with and training Federal agencies to resolve employee problems at all levels. A retired agency labor and employee relations director, Bob has authored or co-authored a number of books dealing with Federal issues and also conducts training seminars.