Tough new PAS (performance appraisal systems) that bosses will use to decide who gets a pay raise, promoted or fired, have been okayed for more than 20 departments and agencies employing the bulk of the federal work force.

The systems approved by the Office of Personnel Management will be the guidelines controlling longevity pay raises, promotions and marking who is to be warned, disciplined or fired for unsatisfactory performance.

President Carter's civil service reform package requires federal managers and supervisors to devote, for the first time, a significant portion of their time to grading subordinate performance. Raises for managers and supervisors in Grades 13 through 15 will be based in large part on how well their staffs perform, and how much attention they pay to rating employes each year. In short, the PAS and new emphasis on grading is a big, big deal.

Carter aides inserted the requirements for tough new PAS after determining that the present method of rating employes -- unsatisfactory, satisfactory or outstanding -- had become meaningless. They noted that 98 percent of all federal workers got within-grade (longevity) pay raises as soon as they became eligible, with bosses routinely giving out "satisfactory" ratings without any real review of performance. Whether you agree with that or not, the Carter people decided to put new emphasis on performance appraisals. All agencies must comply with them, beginning no later than the fall of 1981.

The Reform Act also gives agencies, for the first time, authority to set different performance standards for jobs based on their own requirements. It also requires them to set so-called "critical elements" for each job. A critical element is one of the job functions that the employe must get a "satisfactory" rating or, perhaps, lose his or her job.

Administration officials repeatedly have said they do not expect widespread unsatisfactory ratings will result from the new standards. At the same time they say bosses will be held accountable for making hard-nosed determinations, instead of rubber-stamping everybody as satisfactory.

Under the Reform Act the Office of Personnel Management has the finay say-so as to whether agencies and department standards are acceptable. As of May 1, OPM has aproved new appraisal systems for the following agencies and departments:

Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Civil Aeronautics Board; portions of General Services Administration; Health and Human Services (but excluding the new Department of Education); Housing and Urban Development; Interior; Justice, OPM itself; Small Business Administration; portions of the Smithsonian Institution; Interstate Commerce Commission; Department of Transportation; Civil Rights Commission; Commerce; Veterans Administration; Water Resources Council; Agriculture; State; Navy; Air Force; Selective Service and Treasury.

Merit pay plans, which will cover raises for Grade 13, 14 and 15 supervisors and management personnel, have also been okayed for HHS; SBA; CRC; Commerce; VA; State; Navy and Selective Service.

The so-called "merit pay" system will cover seven of every 10 employes in Grades 13 through 15. Under it they are guaranteed only half of the regular October percentage pay raise granted rank-and file white collar civil servants. To get more they must get good grades from their bosses, based on performance appraisal standards, critical elements of their specific jobs.

Still at issue is how much of a say, if any, federal unions and groups representing employes will have in determining the PAS and the critical elements of a job. Unions contend that the all-important standards must be negotiated. The government says it will consult with unions, but not negotiate with them.

The issue of negotiation or non-negotiability of job standards is now before the Federal Labor Relations Authority. It has been studying the sticky problem for some time. A decision, or series of decisions, is expected within the next three weeks.

If the FLRA rules in favor of the government position, that is that the job standards are not negotiable, the new standards will be put in place immediately in some agencies and employes will be rated on them. If it decides the standards are subject to negotiation between individual unions and government agencies, many of the standards might be revised, and it could be years before they are put in place on a large scale.