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Senior Executive Service Senior Executive Service FAQs

Impact of Pay Freeze Legislation on Senior Level (SL) and Scientific or Professional (ST) employees

  • The pay freeze does not restrict these awards. Agencies are authorized to grant incentive awards and performance awards to SL/ST employees under chapter 45 of title 5.  However, OMB Memorandum 13-05 directs that discretionary monetary awards should not be issued from sequestered funds while sequestration is in place, unless issuance of such awards is legally required. Discretionary monetary awards include annual performance awards, group awards, and special act cash awards.  Agencies should contact their legal counsel to determine whether any awards they are considering are legally required.
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  • Yes. An agency might determine that a senior professional's change of position meets the criteria for the exception in section 147(c) of the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Act (which has been extended until December 31, 2013) and the timing supports an increase in pay through an annual pay adjustment under 5 CFR 534.504. The agency must still consider the 12-month restriction in 5 CFR 534.503(c) to determine whether the pay increase may be provided in this way or must be deferred until a later time. In this regard, 5 CFR 534.503(c)(2) provides that the annual adjustment in pay under 5 CFR 534.504 is not considered to be subject to the 12-month restriction if, and only if, the annual adjustment does not exceed the greater of the annual General Schedule adjustment under 5 U.S.C. 5303 or the Executive Schedule adjustment under 5 U.S.C. 5318, effective the same date. Since both the GS and EX statutory adjustments will be 0% between January 2011 and December 31, 2013, any annual adjustment proposed in January of 2011, 2012, or 2013 that is above 0% must be considered a pay adjustment subject to the 12-month restriction. For example, a senior professional last received a pay increase on April 25, 2010. In November 2010, the agency reassigned the individual to a position with substantially greater responsibility. The agency would have increased pay at that time but could not because of the 12-month restriction. Thus, on April 25th, 2011, the agency was able to grant the individual a pay adjustment since the criteria for the exception to the pay freeze in section147(c) of the Act was met and the 12-month period had expired. Note:  An agency should document the amount of a pay increase that is prevented by the 12-month restriction at the time of a change of position, or as soon as possible thereafter, and must document the basis for its finding that the reassignment meets the criteria for the exception in section 147(c) of the Act.
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  • An agency head may grant a basic pay increase to a senior professional upon transfer from another agency only if the increase is based on a position change resulting in a substantial increase in responsibility, consistent with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. The pay increase may be made within 12 months of the senior professional's last pay adjustment but would initiate a new 12-month waiting period, as provided in 5 CFR 534.503(c).
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  • Such pay increases are precluded by the pay freeze. Under section 147(c) of the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Act, basic pay adjustments that would otherwise be granted by an authorized agency official based upon performance during the most recently completed appraisal period are restricted because this basis does not meet the criteria in that section for the exception to the pay freeze.
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  • An agency may grant a basic pay increase to a senior professional upon voluntary or involuntary reassignment only if the increase is based on a position change resulting in a substantial increase in responsibility, consistent with applicable statutory and regulatory requirements. For example, such a pay adjustment would be subject to the 12-month restriction at 5 CFR 534.503(c). Therefore, an agency may not grant such a pay adjustment within 12 months of the senior professional's most recent basic pay increase. An agency may still determine whether a pay increase is justified under section 147(c) of the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Act through such procedures as the agency head may establish. The procedures should include, as appropriate, review by an official at a higher level than the agency official otherwise authorized to take the pay action and must ensure verification and objective comparison of the positions' relative responsibilities. If at the time of the reassignment the agency documents the basis for the exception under the criteria in section 147(c) of the Act, and specifies the pay adjustment that was prevented by the 12-month restriction, then the agency may properly grant the basic pay increase when the 12-month period expires.
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  • In January of 2011, 2012, and 2013, these pay adjustments will be precluded by the pay freeze. Under 5 U.S.C. 5376(b)(2) and 5 CFR 534.504, the agency head is required to adjust the rate of pay for SL/ST positions by such amount as the agency head considers appropriate in January of each year at the same time an adjustment is made in the General Schedule. However, section 147(c) of the Continuing Appropriations and Surface Transportation Act applies the pay freeze “notwithstanding any other provision of law” and restricts any senior professional employee from receiving an increase in his or her rate of basic pay during the designated period (which has been extended until December 31, 2013). The Act also includes the criteria for an exception in that section - i.e., an increase based on "a change of position that results in a substantial increase in responsibility, or a promotion." An agency may not grant any pay increase during the pay freeze, including an annual pay adjustment otherwise required by 5 U.S.C. 5376(b)(2), unless the increase meets the stated criteria for this exception.
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  • No. An agency may involuntarily reduce a senior professional's rate of basic pay under 5 CFR part 752, subpart D. The pay freeze only addresses and prevents increases in pay, not pay reductions. However, an agency should take the duration of the pay freeze into account when assessing the appropriate reduction for a senior professional. Under 5 CFR 534.503(c), a senior professional whose pay is reduced but who resolves any problems and demonstrates stronger performance has the opportunity for a pay increase after 12 months, but the pay freeze can impose a significantly longer waiting period. For example, a pay reduction done during the period of the pay freeze is fixed until the end of the pay freeze-absent a change of position that meets the criteria in section 147(c) of the Act for an exception.
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  • No, the pay freeze does not apply to these awards.  However, agencies should be cognizant of the current political and economic environment and how it may affect their awards programs.
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  • Yes. For purposes of pay and benefits, a senior professional on detail continues to encumber the position from which he or she is detailed. Agencies may not grant a pay increase to a senior professional detailed to another position because no position change has occurred for purposes of pay and benefits. The same is true of a senior professional assigned to "act" in a position of substantially greater responsibility rather than reassigned to that position.
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