An agency may pay a retention incentive to a group or category of current employees if the agency determines that the unusually high or unique qualifications of the employees or a special need of the agency for the employees services makes it essential to retain the employees in the group and that there is a high risk that a significant number of employees in the targeted group would be likely to leave the Federal service in the absence of a retention incentive. A retention incentive may be paid to an employee only when the employee’s rating of record under an official performance appraisal or evaluation system is at least Fully Successful or equivalent.
Group-based retention incentives may be paid to eligible individuals who are in General Schedule (GS), law enforcement officer, or prevailing rate positions or other categories for which the payment of retention incentives has been approved by OPM at the request of the head of an employing agency.
Retention incentives may not be paid to Presidential appointees or those in positions excepted from the competitive service by reason of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating natures. In addition, an agency may not include in a group retention incentive authorization an employee in a senior-level (SL), scientific or professional (ST), Senior Executive Service (SES), Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration (FBI/DEA) SES, or Executive Schedule (EX) position or in a similar category of positions for which the payment of a retention incentive has been approved by OPM.
Before paying any type of retention incentive, an agency must establish a retention incentive plan. A separate plan is not needed for group retention incentives.
For each retention incentive authorized, an agency must document in writing the basis for determining that the unusually high or unique qualifications of the group of employees or a special need of the agency for the employees services makes it essential to retain the employees and that that there is a high risk that a significant number of employees in the targeted group would be likely to leave the Federal service in the absence of a retention incentive. An agency may make this determination based on a consideration of the factors listed in 5 CFR 575.306(b). In addition, an agency must document in writing the basis for determining the amount and timing of the incentive payments and the length of the service period.
Defining the Group
An agency must narrowly define the targeted group of employees to be paid a group retention incentive using factors that relate to the employees unusually high or unique qualifications or the special need for the employees services that makes it essential to retain the employees in the group and their likelihood to leave. Appropriate factors may be occupational series, grade level, distinctive job duties, unique competencies, assignment to a special project, minimum agency service requirements, organization or team designation, geographic location, and required rating of record. (While a rating of record of higher than Fully Successful may be a factor used in defining the targeted category, a rating of record by itself is not sufficient to justify a retention incentive.)
An agency must establish a single retention incentive rate for each group of employees, expressed as a percentage of the employee’s rate of basic pay, not to exceed 10 percent. With OPM approval, this cap may be increased to 50 percent (based on a critical agency need).
An agency may pay a group-based retention incentive to any individual in the targeted group if all other conditions and requirements for payment of a retention incentive are met. See OPM’s website for further information about these conditions and requirements, including conditions related to the service period, service agreement, and the continuation, reduction, or termination of a retention incentive.