Fedweek

Washington DC, Dec. 29 - OPM headquarters, idle during the partial government shutdown. The agency is scrambling to bring pay and benefits accounts up to date for affected federal employees.

After waiting six weeks for an executive order to carry out the 1.9 percent average pay raise, more waiting now lies ahead before federal employees will actually receive their new rates of pay or back pay which is to be retroactive to January 6.

Most federal employees are to receive a pay distribution late this week or early next week reflecting the pay period that ended March 30. However, that was just two days after the executive order containing the new pay schedules, and there has been no promise so far from any of the federal payroll providers—most agencies use one of four, run by GSA, DoD, Agriculture and Interior—that the upcoming distribution will include the higher rates.

In response to inquiries, OPM is putting out this standard response: “The timing of when federal employees will see a raise in their paycheck will vary. Agencies and payroll providers are currently working quickly to update their systems and process retroactive pay actions, now that OPM has issued the new pay tables. Employees are encouraged to consult their human resource office or payroll providers for further information.”

Some agency officials involved in payroll matters have said that a realistic target is that the raise will be in the distribution covering the pay period ending April 13—payments that will go out about a week after. They also have said they are hopeful that the back pay will be distributed around the same time, either added onto that regular distribution or made separately.

Under that scenario, the back pay would reflect the difference between the old rates and the new for seven pay periods. For example, someone earning $85,000, about the federal employee average, and getting a 1.9 percent increase—the raises range from 1.66 to 2.27 percent by locality—would receive $434 before taxes and other applicable deductions.

However, problems could arise regarding back pay, especially in more complicated situations such as if employees earned overtime or premium pay, moved to a different locality pay area, or received some other type of pay boost in that time. In similar situations in 2003 and 2004, it took several more pay cycles, and in some cases several months, to finally square up the back pay for everyone.