Health benefits

The Office of Personnel Management announced Tuesday that it would conduct its annual review of special rates for certain jobs on the General Schedule pay scale.

The agency authorizes higher rates of pay for specific jobs, grades and locations in order to aid the government’s ability to recruit and retain employees. Each year, OPM reviews these positions to see if rates should be adjusted based on recent staffing issues.

OPM acting Director Kathleen McGettigan asked in a memo that agencies send any requests for changes to or the elimination of existing special rates by Oct. 13. She stressed that agencies do not need to request that existing special pay rates remain the same—bearing in mind that OPM anticipates a 1.9 percent across the board pay raise for civilian employees as laid out in President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

Requests for new special rate classifications are handled through a separate process. Any changes to existing special pay rates would take effect in January 2018.

McGettigan noted that Trump has until Aug. 31 to exercise his authority to formally propose a pay increase that is different from the automatic increase as formulated under the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. But under FEPCA, the increase for federal employees also would be 1.9 percent.

“Any across-the-board general increase in GS base rates combined with any locality pay increases (which could vary by locality pay area) would be limited to a 1.9 percent overall increase in total basic payroll,” she wrote. “As of the date of this memorandum, the president has not exercised his alternative adjustment authorities or indicated whether the increase proposed in the budget would be implemented through an across-the-board increase in GS base rates and/or locality pay increases.”

OPM also announced the dates for open season for health insurance and other federal benefits last week. In an annual boiler-plate letter, OPM Health Care and Insurance Director Alan Spielman said employees will be able to change or enroll in new benefits programs from Nov. 13 until Dec. 11.

Spielman highlighted feds’ need to re-enroll in flexible spending accounts each year to be able to participate. Upwards of $500 of unspent funds in 2017 can be rolled into 2018 accounts, but only if participants re-enroll for the new year.

Additional information about this year’s open season will be made available later this month, and will be posted on the OPM website.

The government human resources agency also announced Monday that it has published an online course for federal managers and HR personnel to learn about options to improve pay and leave offerings to help recruit and retain employees.

The free course, which takes about two hours to complete, outlines the various resources and options supervisors and hiring managers can use across all departments and occupations to attract and keep key workers, as well as the various requirements for such programs.


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