Federal employees that leave for the private sector or academia to gain more experience may have an easier time returning to government jobs, under a rule proposed by the Office of Personnel Management Dec. 26.

The rule would enable returning employees to enter back into a government job without competition at a higher level than when they left, if they have gained the experience and skills to warrant such a higher position.

Under current regulation, a returning federal employee can be reinstated without competition only at a grade level that is no higher than the one they originally left.

“Oftentimes, when an individual leaves federal service, he or she acquires skills and/or experience that may qualify the individual for a position at a higher grade level than the one the individual held prior to leaving government,” the proposed rule states.

“The proposed changes will benefit both agencies as well as individuals seeking to reenter the federal workforce as the proposed rules seeks to encourage individuals who have gained additional skills and experiences to reenter the federal workforce at grade levels equal to the grade levels they actually qualify for, not for grade levels they previously qualified for. Any restriction on the promotion potential of the position may be a disincentive to attracting needed talent with the desired skills and/or experience.”

Feds must meet certain criteria in order to qualify for the new reinstatement, including having been voluntarily separated from their last position for at least a year and have received at least a fully successful rating on their performance in that last job.

“OPM is proposing that individuals who voluntarily separate must wait one year to be eligible for a higher-graded position under this authority in order to provide consistency with the general qualification requirements for advancement to a higher grade,” the rule states.

“OPM’s governmentwide qualification standards require that competitive service employees have one year of specialized experience before being promoted to the next highest grade level. The proposed one-year requirement will prevent situations in which employees seeking a promotion quit and get reinstated to a higher-graded position (in essence a promotion) prior to meeting the specialized experience requirement.”

The proposed changes keep with Trump administration objectives to make it easier for employees to move in and out of government service, with the goal of attracting top talent to spend at least part of their careers working for a federal agency. Past initiatives under this objective have received mixed responses, as some proposals have aimed to change federal retirement benefits to make them more comparable to what the private sector offers.

Those interested in commenting on the proposed change must do so through the Federal eRulemaking Portal or email OPM by Feb. 24.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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