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Changes in Pay Rates for Federal Employees

President Trump’s Executive Order on 2021 pay impacts a number of federal employee pay schedules.

With the issuance of President Trump’s Executive Order on December 31, 2020, federal employees are aware of an across-the-board 1% pay raise that is effective this month. Unlike the case in some previous years, no extra amount has been allocated for locality pay.

While most of the attention is focused on how the raise impacts the majority of employees under the General Schedule pay system, here are some other groups impacted according to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Additional information on the various pay systems is available from OPM.

As noted above, the Executive Order establishes an across-the-board increase of 1.0 percent in the rates of basic pay for the General Schedule pay system. It also includes the same percentage increase for the Foreign Service schedule and some schedules for the Veterans Health Administration in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Special base rates for law enforcement officers at GS grades 3 through 10 are also increased by 1.0 percent. (These law enforcement officers are assigned the “GL” pay plan code.)

Executive Schedule Pay Rates

The Executive Schedule (EX) rates of pay are increased by 1.0 percent (rounded to the nearest $100) in 2021.

The Executive Schedule rates are also important because these EX rates are used for establishing pay limitations for employees and pay systems unaffected by any pay freeze for certain senior political officials. 

SES Pay Levels

The minimum rate of basic pay for the Senior Executive Service (SES) has been adjusted to be consistent with the increase in the minimum rate of basic pay for senior-level positions ($132,552 in 2021).

The maximum basic pay rate for the SES is $199,300 (EX-II) for SES members covered by an SES performance appraisal system that has been certified. The maximum rate is $183,300 (EX-III) for SES members covered by an SES performance appraisal system that has not been certified.  

An SES member with a pay rate below the minimum rate of the new SES rate range must receive a pay increase effective January 3, 2021, bringing the SES member’s rate to at least the new minimum rate. An SES member may not receive less than the minimum rate of the SES rate range. 

Senior-Level, Scientific and Professional

The minimum rate of basic pay for the senior-level (SL) and scientific and professional (ST) rate range has also been increased by 1.0 percent. The minimum rate of basic pay is $132,552 in 2021. 

An SL or ST employee with a pay rate below the minimum rate of the new rate range must receive a pay increase effective January 3, 2021 to at least the new minimum rate.

The maximum rate of basic pay is $199,300 (EX-II) for SL or ST employees covered by a certified SL/ST performance appraisal system and $183,300 (EX-III) for SL or ST employees in an SL/ST performance appraisal system that has not been certified. 

According to OPM, agencies are required to make an appropriate adjustment in the rate of basic pay for SL/ST employees. The General Schedule has also been adjusted on the first day of the first pay period beginning on or after January 1, 2021.

Aggregate Limitation on Pay 

The aggregate limitation on pay for 2021 is $221,400. SES members and employees in SL/ST positions covered by a certified performance appraisal system are subject to a higher aggregate limitation on pay of the Vice President’s salary ($255,800 in 2021).

Locality Pay Areas

As noted in this article on locality pay areas, OPM published a final rule in the Federal Register in October establishing a new Des Moines-Ames-West Des Moines, IA, locality pay area.

In the same notice, OPM issued a final rule regarding Imperial County, California. The notice indicated that “Including Imperial County, CA, in the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA, locality pay area as an area of application will impact about 1,860 GS employees.” The regulation also included “Imperial County, CA, in the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA, locality pay area as an area of application.”

Also, Imperial County, CA, in the Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA, locality pay area as an area of application. The changes are applicable the first day of the first applicable pay period beginning on or after January 1, 2021 (January 3, 2021, based on the standard biweekly payroll cycle).  

Locality Pay Amounts

The 2021 locality payments implemented by the President under his alternative pay plan authority are the same as the 2020 levels.  

The “Rest of U.S.” locality pay percentage will not change in 2021. This also applies to the new Des Moines-Ames-West Des Moines, Iowa, locality pay area.

The Los Angeles-Long Beach, California locality pay percentage will be the same in 2021 as it was in 2020. This will also apply in 2021 for Imperial County, California.

The 2021 locality pay tables are now available.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47

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