Funding available for awards for federal non-Senior Executive Service (SES) employees is set to increase for FY2017.

Guidance issued to agency heads in a joint memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) increased the amounts agencies can use to pay non-SES/Senior Level (SL)/Senior Professional and Scientific (ST) for the period October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017.

Separate guidance on bonuses for SES/SL/ST employees was issued in August.  The freeze on bonuses and awards to political appointees remains in effect.

The aggregate amount agencies can spend on bonuses for non-SES/SL/ST employees for FY2017 is 1.5 percent of the aggregate salaries.  Agency spending on bonuses has been frozen at the FY2010 level since FY2011.  This guidance lifts that freeze.

This guidance applies to individual money awards only, including individual rating-based performance awards and individual contribution awards (e.g., special act awards).

The guidance also lifts monetary caps (frozen at the FY2010 level) for other awards such as group awards, referral bonuses, suggestion/inventions awards, Quality Step Increases (QSIs), and recruitment, relocation, and retention incentives.

The OMB/OPM memo emphases that “awards programs are valuable tools to help agencies to reward employee performance excellence and reinforce a high performing culture that will help improve organizational effectiveness.”  Agencies are encouraged “to review their awards policies to ensure they are operating awards programs that optimize employee engagement and recognition through appropriate use of the various awards authorities.”

The memo also directs agencies to honor all collective bargaining agreements before implementing this guidance.