Departments and agencies having trouble getting or keeping top-notch career executives are being encouraged to include many more people in a fast-track vacation benefit now limited to members of the Senior Executive Service.
SES personnel can accumulate annual leave at the rate of eight hours every two weeks. For most federal workers it takes 15 years of service before they can earn that much leave that quickly.
Now the Office of Personnel Management has extended that fast-track vacation option to employees in SES-like systems from the CIA to the Library of Congress. It will also permit federal agencies to designate certain other personnel, outside of the SES framework, to be eligible for the fast-track vacation plan.
Rank-and-file feds earn four hours of leave per pay period in their first three years of service. Once they have 15 years on the job, they accumulate the vacation time at the rate of eight hours each pay period.
Members of the SES in agencies with approved compensation programs earn $117,787 to $177,000. Those without approved plans have a pay range of $117,787 to $162,900. While those salaries look very good on Main Street, many agencies are having trouble getting and keeping qualified (that being the operative word) SESers.
Some agencies have had select members of the Senior Executive Service on the vacation fast track since the mid-1990s. It was authorized by the Workforce Flexibility Act on a temporary basis. Some agencies used it a lot more than others.
But now the Office of Personnel Management has issued new guidance telling agencies how the program works and encouraging them to use it as a recruitment and retention tool With permission from OPM, agencies can put executives on the vacation fast-track. That could be a major recruiting tool. Few private sector companies have vacation plans that can match the federal government and many smaller businesses don’t offer any paid vacation.
Many members of the SES and related services at the DEA, DIA, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, NRC and Energy Department will qualify for the new benefit. Some manage multi-million (and in some cases billion) dollar programs. Others run eye-popping, high-stress programs or operations related to defense, intelligence and law enforcement. For many of them, an 8-hour day, with weekends off, would be a luxury.
To check out the federal annual leave program to see where you stand, click here, and to see the memo from OPM, click here.