Federal Manager's Daily Report

A coalition of federal managerial and professional groups has generally supported a House committee-passed bill (HR-3023) to extend the standard federal employee probationary period from one year to two, although asking that the provision be made more flexible.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed the bill, citing a report from the MSPB finding that the probationary period is not being used as intended to improve the performance of new employees—and to remove those who can’t or won’t perform better before they gain full appeal rights.

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Many federal jobs involve specialized skills and “new employees and managers must often master broad and complex procedures and policies to meet their agencies’ missions, necessitating several months of formal training followed by long periods of on-the-job instruction. To ensure each manager and supervisor oversees a workforce that exhibits the abilities required to execute its objectives, lawmakers must afford federal agencies the latitude to extend the probationary period beyond the current length of only one year for relevant jobs,” said a letter to the committee.

With only one year, “managers are placed in the position of having to decide whether to retain employees when they may not have had sufficient time, or even any time, to evaluate them,” it said.

However, it said that for some jobs, one year is adequate and that agencies should have the flexibility to determine the period has been successfully completed that soon. It also suggested that for jobs involving a formal training period before the person enters into the job’s duties, the probationary period be deemed to run for one year from the end of that training.