If the boss offered you the option of a three or four-day weekend for the next six, 12 or 18 months, would you take it? We’re talking time off, with pay, as you slowly transition from full-time work to full-time retirement.
If you are just starting out, or are in mid-career, how can someone else taking phased retirement help you move up the pay and grade ladder?
Many people would jump at the chance to phase into retirement. And some people (probably not many, but some) are going to have that option later this year. Phased retirement is the law of the land. Congress OK’d it and the President signed it a couple of years back. But while it sounds simple, this is one situation — not unusual where federal regulations are concerned — where the devil is truly in the details.
On the face of it, Phased Retirement seems like a no-brainer. What’s not to like? The law says that agencies can let retirement-eligible employees work part time. They would draw half their federal salary and half the federal annuity (CSRS or FERS) due them. They would spend 20 percent of their work time mentoring another employee or employees. Maybe just teaching them been-there-done-that things. Maybe grooming them for a promotion to your job. Whatever.
So why is it taking agencies so long to actually offer phased retirement?
Washington attorney Julie Perkins says the government and government agencies want to get it, phased retirement, right. She’s an employment law attorney and partner with Shaw, Bransford and Roth. Good lawyer that she is, she reads the fine print and realizes that the devil is in the details. Especially in something as tricky as a brand-new phased retirement (PR) program. Example: The PR law says that 20 percent of the working retiree’s time must be spent “mentoring” others. So how is mentoring defined? Depends.
In an article in this winter’s issue of The Federal Manager, Perkins said OPM “Left that to the agencies, but expressly stated that mentoring need not be limited to mentoring the employees'” likely replacement.
Perkins also cautioned federal managers that when deciding who gets to take phased retirement “make sure mentoring requirements are clear and consistently applied.”
Also, there is the human factor in PR. Favoritism and the buddy system. “You want to avoid hearing that there are ‘favorites’ getting special mentoring” just as managers want to avoid the appearance of a buddy system in picking people selected for the part-time program.
So how is it going to work? When is it likely to start in your agency? What are your odds for getting phased out, or mentored up? Today at 10 a.m. EST on our Your Turn program, we’ll talk with Julie Perkins about the who, what, when, where and whys of the program. If you have questions for her, e-mail me (before show time) at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Later in the show, senior Federal Times writer Andy Medici will talk about the continued decline in overall federal employees (another 20,000 in 2014) and how that’s about 84,000 in three years. We’ll also discuss a new round of legislation targeting the federal workforce and how customer satisfaction scores for government agencies continues to fall.