What Are They
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has authority under 5 U.S.C. 5305 to establish special salary rates for single positions or classes of positions when recruitment and retention of well-qualified individuals is handicapped by remoteness of an area, the undesirability of the working conditions, pay rates offered by state and private employers, and other conditions which OPM identifies. OPM may increase the minimum rates otherwise payable in one or more locations. Increases may also be made in one or more of the remaining rates of the affected grade or level. An increased minimum may not exceed the maximum rate prescribed by law for the grade or level by more than 30 percent. No rate may be established in excess of the rate of basic pay payable for Level V of the Executive Schedule. Special rates may be worldwide or national in coverage; they may be limited to specific agencies.
A request to establish special rates must be sent to OPM over the signature of the Department's Director for Human Resources Management. Line management, with assistance from the servicing human resources management staff, must be able to support any such request with recruitment and retention statistics; salary data for comparable non-Federal positions; information on the impact to the agency mission of the recruitment situation; and descriptions of training, job engineering, and other flexibilities tried to improve the staffing situation. Failure to provide OPM with appropriate justification will delay, if not moot, action on the request.
Occasionally, other Federal agencies seeking to establish special rates will contact line management directly to garner support for their request. All such calls should be referred to the servicing human resources manager. When OPM establishes special rates for a position in response to one agency's request, it will extend the opportunity for coverage under these rates to agencies having the same positions (and no justification will be necessary).
The OPM traditionally reviews special rates in September of each year to ascertain that the recruitment and retention difficulties which justified position coverage initially are still valid. Heads of operating units that have special rates in effect may expect to be contacted by their servicing human resources managers to certify whether coverage should be continued, discontinued or revised; whether the rate payable should be increased by the general increase, by more than the amount of the general increase, or less than that amount; and whether funds are available to pay any such increases. Servicing human resource managers should expect to provide accession and loss data for grades and series covered by special rates in conjunction with this annual review.
5 CFR 530, Subpart C