Democracy Dies in Darkness


Q&A for federal workers: Within-grade pay increases

September 11, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Question: I’m due for a within-grade raise next year. Will the pay freeze cancel that, too?

Answer: It’s too early to assume that a freeze is certain. President Trump has advocated a freeze all year — he recently repeated that position — and the House has been willing to go along. But the Senate wants to provide an average 1.9 percent increase, with some variation by locality. That difference will have to be resolved in an upcoming spending bill, which when signed into law will have the last say.

In the General Schedule, the pay system for most white-collar federal workers below the executive levels, employees receive additional raises as they advance up the steps of their pay grade. With acceptable performance, those raises — worth about 3 percent of salary — are paid annually as employees advance up to step 4, then every other year up to step 7, then every three years up to step 10, when they stop. Agencies may pay them sooner for top performance.

When federal pay rates were frozen during 2011-2013, employees continued to receive both regular and accelerated within-grade raises. Whether that would hold true if there is a freeze in 2019 is still to be decided.

Eric Yoder is a National reporter at The Washington Post. He has reported for The Post since 2000, concentrating on federal employee issues, the budget and government management policies.

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