Managerial Groups Back Doubling of Probationary Period

The Government Managers Coalition, representing organizations of federal managers and senior executives, is supporting a House bill (HR-4182) to double to two years the standard probationary period for newly hired federal employees, including those newly promoted to the executive ranks.

Further, the two years would not begin until after completion of any training or licensing required for the position, under the bill.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the bill on a partisan vote last week, with Democrats arguing that with fewer legal protections than tenured employees, probationers are more vulnerable to whistleblower retaliation and other abuses of management authority. However, the panel rejected a Democratic amendment to instead merely have GAO study whether a longer period is warranted for some or all positions.

In a letter to the committee, the coalition cited a 2015 GAO report as already justifying the change, noting that agency HR officials told the GAO that supervisors often “are not given sufficient time to accurately review performance before the probationary period is complete.”

“We believe that this legislation will allow employees sufficient time on the job to demonstrate their abilities as well as allow for proper assessment. The measure will ensure that supervisors have the opportunity and authority to fulfil their performance management responsibilities that may not be feasible under the current one-year probationary period,” the letter said.

The change would take effect one year after enactment. Under a law passed last year and effective earlier this year, a two-year period already applies at DoD.