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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

Computation of Payment of Reservist Differential

  • A QSI is a faster-than-normal WGI used to reward employees at any GS grade level who display high quality performance. To be eligible for a QSI, employees must:
    • be below step 10 of their grade level;
    • have received the highest rating available under their performance appraisal system;
    • have demonstrated sustained performance of high quality; and
    • have not received a QSI within the preceding 52 consecutive calendar weeks.
    A QSI does not affect the timing of an employee's next regular WGI unless the QSI places the employee in step 4 or step 7 of his or her grade. In these cases, the employee becomes subject to the full waiting period for the new step--i.e., 104 weeks or 156 weeks, respectively--and the time an employee has already waited counts towards the next increase. The employee receives the full benefit of receiving a WGI at an earlier date and has not lost any time creditable towards his or her next WGI.See 5 U.S.C. 5336, 5 CFR part 531, subpart E, and http://www.opm.gov/perform/articles/1999/apr99-7.asp for additional information on QSIs.
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  • Within-grade increases (WGIs) or step increases are periodic increases in a General Schedule (GS) employee's rate of basic pay from one step of the grade of his or her position to the next higher step of that grade. For WGI purposes, an employee's rate of basic pay is the rate of pay fixed by law or administrative action for the position held by the employee before any deductions and exclusive of additional pay of any kind.(Note: Employees designated as "GM" whose rate of basic pay is less than the maximum rate of their grade also may receive WGIs. See 5 CFR part 531, subpart D, for additional information.)
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  • See the fact sheet on General Schedule Within-Grade Increases for the required waiting periods for advancement to the next higher step of a GS grade for employees with a scheduled tour of duty. (See 5 CFR 531.405(a)(2) for the required waiting periods for employees without a scheduled tour of duty.) A WGI waiting period begins upon (1) first appointment in the Federal service, (2) receiving an "equivalent increase," or (3) after a period of nonpay status and/or a break in service in excess of 52 calendar weeks. Fact sheet available at http://www.opm.gov/oca/pay/html/wgifact.asp
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  • Any employee (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2105) who is highly qualified is eligible to receive a student loan repayment, except those employees who currently occupy or will occupy a position excepted from the competitive service because of its confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character (e.g., employees serving under Schedule C appointments). Under 5 CFR 537.104, agencies may offer student loan repayment benefits to recruit a highly qualified job candidate or retain a highly qualified employee who, during the service period established under a service agreement, will be serving under (1) an appointment other than a time-limited appointment or (2) a time-limited appointment if-
    • The employee (or job candidate) will have at least 3 years remaining under the appointment after the beginning of the service period; or  
    • The time-limited appointment authority leads to conversion to another appointment of sufficient duration so that his or her employment with the agency is projected to last for at least 3 additional years after the beginning of the service period.
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  • An "equivalent increase" is considered to occur at the time of any of the following personnel actions:
    • A within-grade increase, excluding (1) a quality step increase granted under 5 CFR part 531, subpart E, or (2) an interim WGI if that increase is later terminated under 5 CFR 531.414;
    • A promotion (permanent or temporary) to a higher grade, including the promotion of an employee receiving a retained rate under 5 CFR 359.705 or 5 CFR part 536 that does not result in a pay increase, but excluding (1) a temporary promotion if, at the end of that temporary promotion, the employee is returned to the grade from which promoted, or (2) a promotion to a higher-graded supervisory or managerial position when the employee does not satisfactorily complete a probationary period established under 5 U.S.C. 3321(a)(2) and is returned to a position at the lower grade held before promotion;
    • Application of the maximum payable rate rule in 5 CFR 531.221 that results in a higher step rate within the employee's GS grade (or an increase for a GM employee to the next higher rate within the grade), except for application of that rule in a demotion to the extent that the employee's rate of basic pay after demotion does not exceed the lowest step rate that equals or exceeds the employee's rate of basic pay immediately before the demotion (see the Note below for an example);
    • Application of the superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority in 5 CFR 531.212 that results in a higher step rate within the employee's GS grade (or an increase for a GM employee to the next higher rate within the grade); or
    • Application of the qualifications pay authority in 5 U.S.C. 9814 to an employee of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, when the employee fulfills the 1-year service requirement in the position for which qualifications pay was received or in a successor position.
    Note: For example, in 2009 a GS-13, step 3, employee ($75,323 GS rate) accepts a voluntary demotion to a GS-12 position. The agency sets her pay using the maximum payable rate rule at GS-12, step 10 ($77,194 GS rate). The increase in pay is not an equivalent increase because the employee's pay was set at the lowest step that exceeded her rate of basic pay before promotion.For information on equivalent increases for non-GS employees who move to the GS pay system, see Q10, which includes an example for an employee moving to the GS pay system from the Department of Defense (DoD) National Security Personnel System (NSPS).
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  • Civilian employment in any branch of the Federal Government (executive, legislative, or judicial) or with a Government corporation is creditable service in the computation of a waiting period. Service credit is given for periods of annual, sick, and other leave with pay and service under a temporary or term appointment. See 5 CFR 531.406 for special rules regarding the crediting of military service, time in a nonpay status, time during which an employee receives injury compensation, and certain other periods of service.
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  • A WGI is effective on the first day of the first pay period beginning on or after the completion of the required waiting period. (5 U.S.C. 5335 and 5 CFR 531.412.)
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  • For an employee who performs service under a non-GS Federal pay system which is potentially creditable towards a within-grade increase waiting period, an equivalent increase is considered to occur at the time of any of the following personnel actions in the non-GS pay system:
    • A promotion to a higher grade or work level within the non-GS pay system (unless the promotion is cancelled and the employee's rate of basic pay is redetermined as if the promotion had not occurred); or
    • An opportunity to receive a within-level or within-range increase that results in forward movement in the applicable range of rates of basic pay (including an increase granted immediately upon movement to the non-GS pay system from another pay system-e.g., to account for the value of accrued within-grade increases under the former pay system or to provide a promotion-equivalent increase), where "forward movement in the applicable range" means any kind of increase in the employee's rate of basic pay other than an increase that is directly and exclusively linked to (1) a general structural increase in the employee's basic pay schedule or rate range (including the adjustment of a range minimum or maximum) or (2) the employee's placement under a new basic pay schedule within the same pay system, when such placement results in a nondiscretionary basic pay increase to account for occupational pay differences.
    A non-GS pay system is one that does not meet the definition of "General Schedule" or "GS" in 5 CFR 531.403. The personnel actions above must have occurred within the same pay system. That is, even if an employee receives an increase in pay moving between pay systems, that "promotion" or other pay increase is not considered an equivalent increase. See Note 1.For example, the DoD NSPS pay system is a non-GS pay system. The following NSPS pay events would be considered equivalent increases under 5 CFR 531.407(b):
    1. A promotion to a higher band under 5 CFR 9901.354, excluding a temporary or probationary promotion that is later cancelled;
    2. Any within-band increase other than a general salary increase under 5 CFR 9901.323, which would include the following:
      • A performance pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.342;
      • A special within-band increase under 5 CFR 9901.344;
      • A developmental pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.345;
      • A pay adjustment upon placement in an NSPS position under 5 CFR 9901.351(c)(a WGI adjustment equivalent) (See Note 1);
      • A reassignment increase under 5 CFR 9901.353 upon reassignment to a position within the same band, including such a reassignment increase granted immediately upon movement from a non-NSPS position (i.e., excluding reassignment to a comparable band, since that band is in a different NSPS pay schedule with its own basic pay schedule);
      • An increase (if any) under 5 CFR 9901.355 provided after a reduction in band in the same pay schedule, including such an increase provided immediately upon movement from a non-NSPS position (i.e., excluding movement to a lower band in a different pay schedule); or
      • A one-time pay adjustment upon conversion to NSPS under 5 CFR 9901.371(j) (e.g., a WGI adjustment) (See Note 1);
      • A noncompetitive promotion equivalent increase provided to eligible employees during the first 12 months following conversion under 5 CFR 9901.371(l).
    3. A zero increase at the time of an opportunity for an increase, which would include the following:
      • A zero performance pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.342, excluding employees who do not have an opportunity for an increase because their rate equals or exceeds a range maximum (See Note 1);
      • A zero developmental pay increase under 5 CFR 9901.345, if there is a fixed schedule for receiving such an increase;
      • A zero pay adjustment (WGI adjustment) upon conversion to NSPS under 9901.371(j), if the zero adjustment was based on the employee being rated below an acceptable level of competence (as defined in 5 CFR part 531, subpart D), as required by NSPS 5 CFR 9901.371(j)(6); or
      • A zero pay adjustment (WGI adjustment equivalent) upon placement in an NSPS position and application of 5 CFR 990.351(c), if the zero adjustment was based on the employee being rated below an acceptable level of competence.
    Note 1: OPM has a general policy that a pay increase resulting from a change in pay system does not count as an equivalent increase. However, the NSPS WGI adjustment and WGI adjustment equivalent are pay adjustments made under the NSPS system after conversion or placement (although effective on the same date). Under the NSPS regulations, employees are converted with no change in pay. The WGI adjustment under 5 CFR 9901.371(j) is a mandatory adjustment following that conversion. The WGI adjustment equivalent under 5 CFR 9901.351(c)(1) also is a mandatory adjustment, and the WGI adjustment equivalent under 5 CFR 9901(c)(2) is a discretionary adjustment, both made following placement in an NSPS position.Note 2: To the extent that DoD establishes any control point that serves as a maximum rate for all positions within a defined subcategory within a band based on labor market factors (without regard to performance rating), a pay increase denied solely because of such control point would not be considered to be an opportunity for an increase and thus would not be considered to be an equivalent increase.Note 3: Consistent with 5 CFR 531.407(c), a local market supplement adjustment under NSPS would not be considered an equivalent increase. Also, an adjustment resulting from being placed in a subcategory of positions to which a higher supplement applies would not be an equivalent increase.
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