Feds unveil phased retirement regulations

Long awaited regulations allowing federal workers to begin receiving their pensions while remaining on the job were published Friday, drawing praise from across the political spectrum.

Under the new Office of Personnel Management rules, older full-time agency employees can scale back their working hours and tap into their retirement benefits.

Years in the making, the regulations are meant to provide flexibility to both agencies and workers.

“Phased Retirement offers an innovative alternative to traditional retirement for the 21st century workforce,” said Director Katherine Archuleta in a written statement. 

The regulations come two years after President Obama signed the Federal Employee Phased Retirement Act. 

Though lamenting the delay, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lauded the action.

“Now that the administration is finally moving to implement this reform after two years of waiting, agencies must work quickly to establish criteria for approving or denying applications required by the regulation,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.).

“Phased retirement will save taxpayer money and give agencies an important tool to ensure they can meet their current and future workforce demands,” he added.

Employees deemed eligible for the option must gain approval from their agencies, under the regulations. They can remain at work on a part-time schedule and begin receiving a partial annuity while still building service credit toward their final retirement annuity, according to the OPM. 

The workers who choose phased retirement will be required to spend 20 percent of their time in “mentoring activities” designed to pass along skills and institutional knowledge. 

The rule will officially take effect in 90 days, giving agencies time to draw up their individual policies and application forms. 

The National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents workers in more than 30 agencies, said it would push for language extending the phased retirement option to as many workers as possible. 

“NTEU pushed for the legislation on Capitol Hill, pushed OPM to issue the final rules, and now will push federal agencies to develop programs,” said Colleen Kelley, the union’s president. “From the beginning, NTEU has believed that the program should be broadly available and that remains our goal.”