OPM Announces Phased Retirement
On August 8, 2014 the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) revealed the final rule for the long-awaited phased retirement program. Phased retirement allows federal employees who are eligible for retirement to work part-time to ease into retirement and focus on transferring institutional knowledge to other employees. The program is scheduled to go into effect in November, with each agency developing an implementation plan over the next 90 days.
With each agency focusing on implementation, OPM provided the following guidance: Phased retirement employees will receive half their annuity. In addition, they will be treated like part-time employees with regards to their leave and pay. Twenty percent of a phased-retirement employee’s work time is required to be spent mentoring. Mentoring is encouraged and necessary so that there is a transfer of institutional knowledge to the employees who will fill their position. It is clear that OPM is looking to avoid a significant knowledge gap from should the federal government see a wave of retirement as some analysts predict.
There are two different qualifications for phased retirement eligibility. Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees must be at least 55 years old and have 30 years of service or 60 years old and have 20 years of service. Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employees ages 55-57 must have 30 years of service or be 60 or older with 20 years of service to be eligible. However, between now and the schedule date of phased retirement, November 6, 2014, agencies will individually determine eligibility, approval and mentorship guidelines. NFFE Locals should take advantage of this time to request pre-decisional involvement (PDI) on the agency’s implementation plan for phased retirement.
Agencies have 90 days from August 8, 2014 to establish administrative criteria for operating a phased retirement program. Key criteria like eligibility, approval process and mentorship program development are tasked to individual agencies, and OPM has noted that criteria for phased retirement is negotiable. NFFE Locals should request that their agency to maintain transparency in the process, as well as accept input from the Local prior to making decisions on their implementation plans for phased retirement. The best option for Locals is to seek pre-decisional involvement through the Local’s established labor-management forum/labor relations point of contact at the worksite. The most effective phased retirement programs will include input from many stakeholders, most importantly, the employees represented by the Local.
Phased retirement has been on OPM’s radar for quite some time, and NFFE welcomes the decision being published. The next step is crucial, and Locals need to engage management at their worksites to ensure the employee voice is heard loud and clear in this incredibly important decision.