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Within-grade-equivalent increases

What is an Equivalent Increase?

An equivalent increase is an increase or increases in an employee's rate of basic pay equal to or greater than the difference between the rate of pay for the GS grade and step occupied by the employee and the next higher step of the grade. If an employee receives more than one increase in a waiting period for the step of his or her grade, none of which is an equivalent increase, all the increases must be added together until they total or exceed an equivalent increase. At that time the employee is deemed to have received an equivalent increase or within-grade increase. On that date (the date of equivalent increase) the employee begins a new waiting period for the next within-grade increase.

Commencement of a Waiting Period

A waiting period commences on the day of first appointment regardless of tenure; the date of last equivalent increase; or after a period of 52 continuous calendar weeks in a nonpay status unless the employee has a break in service or the service is creditable for a within-grade increase.

Service creditable for purposes of completing a waiting period includes: 

  • All civilian employment in any branch of the government including periods of paid leave, periods of continuation of pay under section 8118 of the Title 5, and service under a temporary appointment. 
  • Military service as long as the employee is restored or reemployed in government within 52 weeks following separation or release from not more than 1 year of hospitalization immediately following the service. 
  • Time in a nonpay status provided it does not exceed more than 2 weeks in steps 1, 2, 3, and 4; 3 weeks in steps 5, 6, and 7; and 4 weeks in the remaining steps. Time in excess of the allowable limits extends the waiting period by a corresponding period. 
  • Service under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointment. 
  • Peace Corps or VISTA service. 
  • Any period following separation from Federal service which confers a reemployment or restoration right. 

Length of Waiting Periods

Waiting periods for within-grade increases are as follows: 

52 weeks of creditable service - - - steps 2, 3, 4

104 weeks of creditable service - - - steps 5, 6, 7

156 weeks of creditable service - - - steps 8, 9, 10 

Part-timers are treated as full-time employees for purposes of completing a waiting period, i.e., a full-time and a part-time employee hired on the same day will complete a waiting period on the same date even though one works fewer hours. Intermittent employees get one day credit for every day paid even if they only work an hour. Service creditable toward completing required waiting periods is counted in days: 260, 520, and 780 days respectively.


The following are not counted for purposes of determining whether an employee has received an equivalent increase: 

  • Any increase received while temporarily promoted if the employee is returned to lower grade; 
  • A locality-comparability increase received as a GS employee (a zero PMRS increase is counted); 
  • A quality step increase (inasmuch as it does not change the waiting period for a within grade increase); 
  • An increase in special rates or establishment of higher minimum rates; 
  • Locality pay.

Example 1

11-18-93 --- An employee is promoted to GS-5/1 ($18,340).

01-13-94 --- The employee accepts a GS-4 position. Highest previous rate puts the employee in step 5 of the grade ($18,577) with an increase in pay of $237. The amount of equivalent increase in grade 4 is $546; therefore, the employee has not received an equivalent increase. The waiting period still dates from the date of last equivalent increase, i.e., 11-18-93 and the employee now has to wait 104 weeks (by virtue of being at step 5 of his grade) before being eligible for another within-grade.

07-13-94 --- The employee accepts a GS-3 position. This time highest previous rate puts him at step 10 of the grade ($18,986) with an increase in pay of $409. The amount of equivalent increase for grade 3 is $487. While $409 alone is not an equivalent increase, $237 and $409 added together more than equal an equivalent increase at grade 3. However, it really doesn't matter that the employee received an equivalent increase on 07-13-94; he cannot begin another waiting period since he is at the top of his grade. 

Example 2 

11-18-79 --- An employee was promoted to WG-5/2, ($6.72 per hour/ ($13,977.60 per annum), from WG-4/2, $6.30 ($13,104 per annum), receiving an increase of $.42 cents an hour ($873.60 per annum).

01-13-80 --- The employee accepted a WG-4 position, and through use of highest previous rate was placed at step 4 ($6.81 per hour/ ($14,164.80 per annum), receiving an increase in pay of $.09 per hour ($187.20 per annum).

07-13-80 --- The employee accepted a GS-6 position, and through the use of highest previous rate, was placed at step 7 ($14,555). In 1979 the amount of equivalent increase for GS-6 was $404. In determining whether the employee received an equivalent increase during the appropriate waiting period (the preceding 2 years), the following procedures were followed:

(Remember that "equivalent increase" always equals a step increase in the grade occupied by the employee after his last position move, in this case the amount for GS-6 ($404)). The date of last equivalent increase is the last date the employee received an increase or increases aggregating $404. When an employee moves between pay systems, hourly rates must be made annual rates for purposes of comparison. 

  • The $873.60 increase received on 11-18-79 was more than an equivalent increase at GS-6, so the employee was deemed to have received an equivalent increase on that date and began a new waiting period. 
  • The increase received on 1-13-80 ($187.20) was less than $404 so the employee did not begin a new waiting period. The date of last equivalent increase remains 11-18-79. 
  • The increase received on 7-13-80 ($390.20) was less than $404, but together with the $187.20 increase, it aggregated to more than $404 dollars so the employee was deemed to have received an equivalent increase on 7-13-79. A new waiting period began on the same date. Since the employee was in step 7 of grade 6, he was in a 156 week waiting period which meant he was not eligible for step 7 until 7-11-82.

Note: the computations in the last example date from a period when 2080 was the figure used to compute the annual rate. The figure now used to compute the annual rate from an hourly figure is 2087.


5 U.S.C. 5335
5 CFR 531, Subpart D