OPM Issues Guidance on Recruitment, Relocation, and Retention Incentives

The Office of Personnel Management recently issued guidance on the use of recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives for 2016.

The Office of Personnel Management recently issued guidance on the use of recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives (3Rs) during calendar year 2016.

The guidance memo follows below.

OPM notes that it will continue to remain in effect until further notice.

The 3Rs Spending Limitation

On June 10, 2011, OPM and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) placed a limit on agencies’ spending on the 3Rs.  OPM and OMB asked agencies to ensure that spending on the 3Rs during the calendar year did not exceed calendar year 2010 levels.  See CPM 2011-10.  Further issuances extended this spending limit through the end of calendar year 2015.

Exceptions to the 3Rs Spending Limitation

Agencies may now approve exceptions to the calendar year 2010 spending limit on the 3Rs for certain employees based on a critical agency need.  Agencies, through their Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO) or Human Resources Director, should clearly document the critical agency need justifying each exception to their 3Rs spending limit and be prepared to provide information to OPM or OMB on approved exceptions upon request.

OPM recognizes the 3Rs are essential pay flexibilities for agencies facing serious staffing challenges.  Agencies may need to resort to more expensive solutions or may have difficulties accomplishing their missions if the 3Rs are not available for use.  For example, OMB indicated in its October 30, 2015, memorandum that strengthening Federal cybersecurity is not possible without the appropriate talent.  The flexibility to grant exceptions to the 3Rs spending limit may assist agencies in recruiting and retaining the most highly-qualified cybersecurity employees to meet the Government’s important challenges of strengthening Federal networks, systems, and data.  In the past, agencies have reported using the 3Rs to meet other mission-critical needs, such as paying the 3Rs to employees in health care occupations who treat our nation’s military members and veterans.

Ensuring Oversight and Accountability of the 3Rs

While the 3Rs are important human resources tools that help agencies attract and retain employees, these incentives must be used consistent with the law and OPM’s regulations.  OPM and agencies, through their CHCO and/or HR Director, have specific approval, oversight, and accountability responsibilities in administering the 3Rs program.  This includes the requirement for agencies to establish a plan prescribing payment approval criteria and requirements, document thoroughly the basis for paying each incentive, and review all retention incentives and group recruitment incentives at least annually to determine whether they should be revised or discontinued.  This plan must, at a minimum, be approved by the CHCO and/or HR Director to ensure appropriate oversight, consistency, and compliance.  Please see https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/recruitment-relocation-retention-incentives/fact-sheets/oversight-and-accountability/ and the fact sheets at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/recruitment-relocation-retention-incentives/#url=Fact-Sheets for additional guidance.

Additional Information

Agency headquarters-level human resources offices may contact OPM’s Pay and Leave office at pay-leave-policy@opm.gov.  Employees should contact their agency human resources office for further information on this memo.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.