Chapter 5. Quality Step Increases
A Quality Step Increase (QSI) is an increase in an employee's rate of basic pay from one step of his or her position to the next higher step of the grade. A QSI may be granted in addition to a regular within-grade increase. Before a QSI is granted, careful consideration should be given to the long-term impact on resources and appropriateness in light of other forms of recognition.
QSIs may be granted to General Schedule employees to recognize high-quality performance. A QSI requires, but is not automatically granted for, a Level 5 rating.
In addition, an employee must:
- Not have received a QSI within 52 consecutive calendar weeks preceding the effective date of the increase;
- Not be at the top step of his or her pay range;
- Not be in the process of being promoted within 60 days after the effective date of the increase;
- Have held the same grade and type of position (or similar position) in a pay status for at least six months before the end of the appraisal cycle;
- Be expected to continue at the same high level of performance in the same grade and type of position for at least 60 days after the effective date of the increase; and
- Not have been on detail or temporarily promoted to another position during the last six months of the appraisal period, unless detailed to the same grade and type of position.
Impact of a QSI on the Recipient's Anniversary Date
The anniversary date is the date of the employee's next regularly scheduled Within-Grade Increase (WGI). A QSI affects the waiting period for the next WGI when the QSI moves the employee from steps 3 to 4 or from steps 6 to 7 in the General Schedule.
Each operating unit must specify the delegations of authority for approval of QSIs.
QSI recommendations must be submitted within 90 days following the end of the performance cycle. The final authority for approving QSI rests with the servicing human resources office.
QSIs become effective on the first day of the first pay period on or after approval by the appropriate management official and received/certified for processing by the servicing human resources office. QSIs may not be retroactive except to correct an administrative error that occurred after the approval of the award.
When an employee has received a QSI based on performance during the previous appraisal period and is being recommended for another QSI for the current appraisal period, the following apply:
- The employee must have demonstrated performance that is at a significantly higher level than the performance, which warranted the previous QSI.
- The servicing human resources manager must review the QSI and forward it to the head of the operating unit with a recommendation for approval or disapproval. The recommendation must address whether the current performance is at a significantly higher level than the performance, which warranted the previous QSI.
- The head of the operating unit must personally approve the QSI.
- If an employee receives more than two QSIs in a four-year period, the recommendation for each QSI beyond two must be submitted to the Director for Human Resources Management for approval.
Except in unusual circumstances where an employee's performance is exceptionally outstanding or is a significant contribution to the agency mission or strategic goals, an employee may not receive a QSI and a performance award, both of which recognize the same performance during an appraisal period. The situations are considered so rare that a written request for approval must be sent to the Director for Human Resources Management. The combined value of the QSI and the performance award must not exceed the percent limitation in Appendix A, Guidelines for Total Award Recognition (Performance Awards and Special Acts)