Recruitment Incentive Payments for Federal Employees

Any federal agency may pay a recruitment incentive to a newly-appointed employee if the agency has determined that the position is likely to be difficult to fill in the absence of an incentive.

Covered Positions

A recruitment incentive may be paid to an eligible individual who is appointed to a General Schedule (GS), senior level (SL), scientific or professional (ST), Senior Executive Service (SES), Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration (FBI/DEA) SES, Executive Schedule (EX), law enforcement officer, or prevailing rate position. OPM may approve other categories for coverage upon written request from the head of the employing agency.

Excluded Positions

Recruitment incentives may not be paid to Presidential appointees; noncareer appointees in the Senior Executive Service; those in positions excepted from the competitive service by reason of their confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating natures; agency heads; or those expected to receive an appointment as an agency head.


A recruitment incentive may not exceed 25 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay in effect at the beginning of the service period multiplied by the number of years (including fractions of a year) in the service period (not to exceed 4 years). With OPM approval, this cap may be increased to 50 percent (based on a critical agency need), as long as the total incentive does not exceed 100 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay at the beginning of the service period. The incentive may be paid as an initial lump-sum payment at the beginning of the service period, in installments throughout the service period, as a final-lump sum payment upon completion of the service period, or in a combination of these methods. An incentive may be paid to an individual not yet employed who has received a written offer of employment and signed a written service agreement.

Rate of Basic Pay

For the purpose of calculating a recruitment incentive, an employee’s rate of basic pay includes a special rate under 5 CFR part 530, subpart C, a locality payment under 5 CFR part 531, subpart F, or similar payment under other legal authority, but excludes additional pay of any other kind. A recruitment incentive is not part of an employee’s rate of basic pay for any purpose.

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