Rules change for government scientists' pay

Government scientists can expect new performance-based pay schedules under new rules from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The OPM announced Tuesday it is moving forward with pay changes for government scientists. The new rules would govern pay increases and reductions for senior-level scientists.

The agency plans to implement new performance-based pay standards in 30 days, when the rule goes into effect.

"Consistent with this statutory emphasis on performance-based pay, these regulations provide for agencies to set and adjust pay for ... employees based on individual performance, contribution to the agency's performance, or both, as determined under a rigorous performance appraisal system," the agency wrote.

The new rules come from the Senior Professional Performance Act of 2008, which made "significant changes" to the amount of money government scientists are paid and led to a 2011 proposed rule that the OPM is now finalizing, the agency said.

The OPM noted that it received comments from three federal agencies, an executive organization and one person during the rulemaking process.

"An agency may provide a pay increase to a senior professional only upon a determination by the authorized agency official that the senior professional's performance and/or contributions to agency performance so warrant," the OPM wrote.

The OPM also noted that a "single noteworthy contribution" by a government scientist should be rewarded on a one-time basis, but not with a permanent salary increase.

"A pay increase must reflect the agency's judgment concerning the value of the employee's characteristic and continuing service to the agency," it added.