OPM has told agencies to report on their need for “special rate” pay, a process in which agencies can recommend whether to provide that higher pay for recruitment and retention purposes in certain occupations and locations; continue—and potentially increase—the differential where it is already being paid; or reduce or discontinue it.

If an agency makes no recommendation—the most common outcome of these annual reviews—the differential continues unchanged and those employees will receive the GS across the board pay raise component in January. The deadline for submissions is October 25.


In a memo, acting director Margaret Weichert wrote that “historically, the default January adjustment for special rates has been equal to the January across-the-board adjustment for GS base rates. I have determined that the default January 2020 adjustment for special rates will be equal to the January 2020 across-the-board adjustment for GS base rates, which the President has determined will be 2.6 percent, as prescribed.”

President Trump recently set an across the board raise of 2.6 percent as the default amount should Congress not pass a raise figure into law by the end of this year. The House already has backed a 3.1 percent increase that would also include another 0.5 percentage points for variable locality-based pay. The Senate has not taken a position on the raise.

About 40,000 employees get special rate pay, which ranges from several percent above the base GS rate for the grade and step of a position to much more. OPM noted that its memo pertains only to special rate pay effective in January and that “agencies can submit special rate requests at any time throughout a calendar year.”

Read more: Higher ‘Special Rate’ Pay for Some Federal Jobs at ask.FEDweek.com