The offer, said Branford, sounds more tempting when paired against the threat of a reduction in force – a mandatory downgrade or layoff. According to Branford, turning down a buyout, only to get hit by a reduction in force, leaves little recourse for the employee.
“There’s an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board from a reduction in force decision but what the MSPB usually considers is whether the agency followed its procedures,” he said.
Bransford advises GPO employees to consider job security before accepting a buyout.
“If you think you’re vulnerable, a buyout’s a good thing because it gives you the $25,000 and it’s usually accompanied by the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority as well, which allows employees to retire before they’re otherwise available,” said Branford.
For less vulnerable positions, Bransford said turning down a buyout may be a calculated but rewarding risk.
“If you don’t think you can be reached on a RIF and you’re not ready to retire – or assuming you’re not eligible to retire – you don’t want to just go out into the job market, which isn’t the greatest right now, then you should just hang in there.”
Bransford said there are a few other things feds should consider before taking a buyout.
He reminds feds that buyouts go up to $25,000 and that they cannot receive any more than what they would receive in severance pay. Most veteran employees, he said, would earn more in severance than what a buyout would offer them. Buyout deals are also subject to taxes. After federal, state, and local deductions, Bransford figures employees receive around $17,000 on a full $25,000 buyout.
According to Bransford, employees must have at least three years on-the-job before they qualify for a buyout. Those looking to accept the buyout cannot receive student loan repayments, or retention, relocation, or recruitment bonuses within a certain time prior to the buyout. Employees also give up their right to rescind a resignation before it takes effect.
“You cannot change your mind,” said Bransford. “The agency is relying on your decision to do planning.”