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Federal Probationary Period Doubles for Some New Hires

The probationary period for many new federal employees has doubled.

Civilian employees hired by the Defense Department on or after November 26, 2015 has increased from one year to two, according to the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy.

In a September 27th memo to human resources directors, assistant secretary Julie Blanks said, “the appointment of “covered employees” within the Department of Defense (DoD) shall become final only after the employee has served a probationary period of two years. Covered employees include individuals who are appointed to permanent positions in the competitive service and individuals who received career appointments in the Senior Executive Service (SES) within DoD on or after November 26, 2015.”

The new law took effect Nov. 26, 2015, as part of the fiscal year 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, said DoD spokesman Eric Pahon.

“The [one-year] supervisory probationary period … is not affected by the new two-year probationary period,” Pahon said. “However, those employees who are newly appointed to a supervisory position who are required to serve both a supervisory probationary period and a probationary period … will serve [both] concurrently.”

In a summary of the fiscal 2016 NDAA from congressional conferees, it stated, “We note that the probationary period extension will be beneficial only if an agency has effective performance management practices in place and uses the extra time for the purpose intended. We expect the secretary of Defense to assess the adequacy of leadership training provided to supervisors in DoD components and Defense agencies in order to ensure supervisors obtain the skills needed to effectively conduct performance management responsibilities.”

Additionally, the new law allows DoD and its military departments the option to extend a covered employee’s probationary period beyond the new two-year requirement, Blanks said in her memo.

Because the work performed by DoD employees is increasingly complex, one year does not provide sufficient time for a supervisor to assess the performance of a new employee, said Pahon.

He went on to add that new hires spend much of their first year in training, often rotating through various offices, so supervisors cannot always glean a complete picture of the individual’s skills and performance.

As for those transferring in to the DoD from an outside agency, the following applies:

  • An employee transferring from another agency who has already completed a probationary period under an initial appointment in the competitive service, having attained full appeal rights to the Merit Systems Protection Board, does not have to serve another probationary period under this authority.
  • An employee transferring from another agency who receives a career appointment in the Senior Executive Service in the DoD on or after Nov. 26, 2015, must serve a two-year probationary period.
  • An employee transferring from another agency who has not completed a probationary period and is appointed to a position in DoD may be required to complete a new probationary period. Credit for prior federal civilian service toward completion of a probationary period may apply in accordance with applicable federal regulation.

A number of other bills have been introduced on the Hill to extend the probationary period for other agencies or broadly through the government, but movement on those pieces of legislation is not anticipated this year.

Posted in General News

Tags: National Defense Authorization Act , DOD, human resources, probationary period

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