Legislation introduced in the Senate this week would offer higher rates of pay for some federal workers as an incentive to expand federal jobs in geographic areas affected by unique circumstances.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) introduced the Flexible HIRE (Hiring and Improving Recruitment, Retention, and Education) Act of 2016 (S. 3180) to develop solutions to recruit and retain federal workers in remote regions. Heitkamp is a Senator in North Dakota, an area which faces hiring challenges because of areas that are isolated or where an economic boom has driven up the cost of living and pulled federal workers to more lucrative jobs in the private sector. Consequently, agencies face challenges filling job vacancies in these situations.
The bill would do the following:
- Give federal agencies more direct hire authority to make it easier for them to hire employees quickly, while still appropriately prioritizing the hiring of veterans.
- Allow agencies to offer special pay rates – In certain occupations, agencies would be able to offer higher rates of pay, particularly when federal agencies’ recruitment and retention efforts are compromised by offering pay that isn’t at parity with private sector pay for similar positions.
- Offer recruitment, relocation, retention bonuses – Federal agencies would be able to consider these circumstances when deciding whether to award a bonus to a newly-appointed employee, or to an employee relocating to a different area. Agencies would also be able to offer bonuses to retain employees, including those looking to move to a different location due to challenging geographic circumstances.
- The bill would make sure federal agencies are aware of the tools they have access to as they work to recruit and retain employees. It would also hold agencies accountable for educating employees about opportunities that could boost recruitment and retention.
Heitkamp said in a statement, “To tackle workforce challenges we’ve seen in North Dakota, my bill would give agencies a toolkit of resources for recruiting and retaining federal workers, which helps support law enforcement, permitting, agriculture, and many other jobs and businesses across the state. The growth in the Bakken is not the last time the federal workforce will respond to such a unique situation, and the remoteness of many rural communities isn’t going away. It’s critical that, as a nation, we prepare for the next time these challenges come up so federal workers are in place to support business and families.”
The Partnership for Public Service released a statement putting its support behind the legislation. President and CEO Max Stier said, “This meaningful legislation will improve recruitment and retention in places where unique events or the remoteness of the location impacts the ability of agencies to achieve their missions. Thank you to Sen. Heitkamp for working to reform our government’s hiring and compensation practices and to get the critical talent needed to serve the nation.”