Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is a demonstration project?

What employees are affected by the pay-banding and pay-for-performance demonstration project?

When was pay-banding implemented?

What is the duration of the demonstration project?

What happens after 5 years?

What is the process for converting employees from the pay-banding system back to the General Schedule system (in the event of a transfer to another federal agency)?

What is a share?

What occupational series will be covered in each career path?

Conversions

What is the process for converting employees to pay-banding?

How does conversion to a pay band affect an employee's next step increase?

Will employees lose pay when converted to pay-banding?

Will employees at the Step 10 receive a Within-Grade Increase Buy-in?

Pay Bands

Will pay bands be identical to excepted service pay bands? If not, why?

Will employees be placed in identical pay bands based on their current grade?

How were the pay bands determined?

What are the pay bands for each career path?

Why aren’t all the pay bands the same across all the proposed career paths?

How is someone selected to be placed in the Future Leaders Career Path?

How will temporary promotions and details be handled?

What does an employee stand to gain if they apply for a position in the same pay band as they already occupy?

If an employee is reassigned from one career path to another, can their pay be set at any rate within the new pay band in the new career path?

Pay

If step increases go away, how will an employee receive pay increases under pay-banding?

Will employees still receive the automatic annual pay adjustment?

What is the Performance Pay Increase?

Can employees receive a Performance Pay Increase if their pay is at the top of the band?

How will an employee be promoted from one pay band to another?

Will employees who occupy a career ladder position, but have not reached their full performance level, be eligible to continue to receive their career ladder promotions after conversion to the demonstration project?

How can employees, who receive performance pay increases at the end of the year, maximize their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions to avoid losing matching contributions?

Are employees losing their locality pay?

Can a GS-11 employee who converted to the Demonstration Project in a position which had full performance level to a GS-13 receive both a special band increase and a career ladder?

Performance Management

How does NNSA propose to change the Performance Management Program?

How do higher performers receive higher pay increases?

Do poor performers have money taken away?

What is the period over which performance is evaluated (e.g., Jan 1 to Dec 31, Mar 1 to Feb 28)?

When will employees be notified of their performance ratings?

When will employees be notified of how much each "share" is worth in terms of dollar or percentage increases?

What pay adjustments will an employee be eligible for at the SEE, FME, NI and DME rating levels?  



General

What is a demonstration project?
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A demonstration project is a way to “test” alternatives to current personnel systems by allowing waivers to certain laws and regulations.

What employees are affected by the pay-banding and pay-for-performance demonstration project?
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All of NNSA’s General Schedule (GS) employees will participate in pay-banding.

The following employees are excluded from pay-banding participation:

  • Headquarters bargaining unit employees,
  • Excepted service employees covered by the EN, EJ, and EK pay plans,
  • Employees in the SL pay band, and
  • Employees that are detailed to NNSA, but work for another Department of Energy office (e.g., EM employees).

When was pay-banding implemented?
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NNSA’s pay-banding project was implemented on March 16, 2008.

What is the duration of the demonstration project?
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A typical demonstration project has a duration of 5 years. However, the pay-banding demonstration project can be extended in order to validate evaluation assessments.

What happens after 5 years?
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If pay-banding is successful, NNSA may implement it on a permanent basis as an alternative personnel system.

What is the process for converting employees from the pay-banding system back to the General Schedule system (in the event of a transfer to another federal agency)?
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The NNSA Office of Human Capital Management Services will assign a converted GS equivalent grade and rate of pay to employees leaving the demonstration project and going into a GS position. NNSA will provide a copy of the conversion procedures it uses to gaining federal agencies for their use in applying various pay administration rules that govern how pay is set for the GS position.

Several federal institutions are currently under a pay-banding system. The process of conversion to a GS pay system is not new to agencies since employees transfer from agencies with pay-banding to agencies under the traditional GS pay system regularly. The gaining federal agency is responsible for setting the employee's pay appropriately upon conversion.

NNSA will provide guidance to agencies who request assistance in converting the pay from a pay band to a GS grade level.

Typically, the Step 4 is used as a representative rate in determining a GS grade level. When pay falls between GS steps, the higher step is used in determining the rate of pay.

What is a share?
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A share is a percentage increase to base pay.  The share value is determined by dividing the Pay Pool Fund (a percentage of all employee base salaries within a pay pool) by the sum of the salaries of each employee multiplied by the number of shares for the same employee. If, for example, a share is determined to be 1 percent, then two shares are worth 2 percent, and three shares are worth 3 percent.

What occupational series will be covered in each career path?
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DEMO Career Path Pay Plan NNSA Series Covered
 Engineering & Scientific  NN  801, 803, 804, 810, 819, 830, 840, 850, 854, 1301, 1306, 1310, 1320
 Professional, Technical & Administrative  NQ  018, 028, 080, 130, 201, 260, 301, 340, 343, 346, 501, 505, 510, 560, 690, 905, 950, 1101, 1102, 1103, 1170, 2101, 2130, 2210
 Technicians & Administrative Support  NU  086, 203, 303, 318, 326, 335, 344, 525, 561, 802, 986, 1106
 Nuclear Materials Couriers  NV  084
 Future Leaders  NF  Includes all series listed in the first two career paths (NN, NQ)

 

Conversion

What is the process for converting employees to pay-banding?
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Employees will be converted based on their position, title, series, and grade on the date of conversion. The job series will determine the career path in which the employees are placed, and the grade will determine the placement into the appropriate pay band.

How does conversion to a pay band affect an employee's next step increase?
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GS employees who are converted to NNSA's pay-banding system will no longer receive step increases. The fixed-step system was designed to reward longevity. Instead, pay-banding will tie pay increases to work performance.

Will employees lose pay when converted to pay-banding?
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No, employees will convert to pay-banding based on their permanent position of record without a loss of pay. In fact, most employees will receive a prorated salary increase based on their current step, the waiting period for their next step increase and the difference between the current and next step. This increase is called the "within-grade buy-in" increase.

Examples:

  • One-Year Waiting Period: Employee is a GS-13 Step 2 with a one-year waiting period. Employee has been in the step six months and is due a within-grade increase in six months.
    • Difference between Step 2 and Step 3 is $2,637
    • Employee has been at Step 2 for 50% of the time needed for the progression to the next step
    • Employee is entitled to 50% of $2,637
    • Buy-in = $1,319 (Base pay will be increased by this amount)
  • Two-Year Waiting Period: Employee is a GS-13 Step 4 with a two year waiting period. Employee has been in the step 18 months and is due a within-grade increase in 6 months.
    • Difference between Step 4 and Step 5 is $2,637
    • Employee has been at Step 4 for 75% of the time needed for progression to the next step
    • Employee is entitled to 75% of $2,637
    • Buy-in = $1,978 (Base pay will be increased by this amount)

Will employees at the Step 10 receive a Within-Grade Increase Buy-in?
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No, employees who are at step 10 in their current grade are not eligible to receive a "within-grade buy-in" because they are not in a waiting period for a step increase.

Pay Bands

Will pay bands be identical to excepted service pay bands? If not, why?
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No, NNSA's pay bands will not be identical to the pay bands used in the excepted service. The excepted service authorities were designed primarily for critical scientific and technical positions that required unique qualifications or skills for which NNSA typically had difficulty recruiting. As such, the excepted service pay band salaries exceed the GS-15 Step 10 level. This is permissible for the excepted service authorities because the requirements for pay in the excepted service are different than those in the competitive service.

The demonstration project will only cover competitive service employees. Pay-banding and pay-for-performance allows NNSA to consolidate multiple grades into bands and compensate employees based on performance.

Will employees be placed in identical pay bands based on their current grade?
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Not necessarily. Pay bands will be established based on career paths as described below. Each career path encompasses positions in varying occupational series having similar knowledge requirements.

  • Employees who hold two-grade interval positions in the Engineering occupational series (800) and the Physical Science occupational series (1300) will be placed into the Engineer and Scientific Career Path.
  • Employees who hold positions in other two-grade interval occupations such as GS-201-Human Resource Specialist, GS-340-Program Manager, GS-080-Security Specialist, GS-343-Program Analyst, GS-905-General Attorney, GS-130-Foreign Affairs Specialist, GS-1102-Contract Specialist will be placed into the Professional, Technical, and Administrative Career Path.
  • Employees who hold one grade interval positions in occupational series such as GS-303 Administrative Support Assistants, GS-318-Secretary, GS-1106-Procurement Clerk/Assistant, and GS-802-Engineering Technician will be placed into the Technician and Administrative Career Path. (The only exception to one grade interval positions not covered by this career path are GS-084-Nuclear Materials Couriers).
  • Employees who hold positions in the occupational series GS-084-Nuclear Materials Courier will be placed into the Nuclear Materials Courier Career Path due to the unique nature of the work performed.
  • Employees who are selected for positions in the Future Leaders 2-year Program will be placed into the Future Leaders Career Path.

How were the pay bands determined?
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The pay bands were derived from previous recruitment and promotion patterns, and from existing grade distributions found in current position structures. Because recruitment and promotion patterns vary by career path, the four basic career paths do not have identical pay bands. Each career path will have designated pay bands reflective of past recruitment and promotion patterns within those occupations.

What are the pay bands for each career path?
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See the chart.

Why aren’t all the pay bands the same across all the proposed career paths?
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Each career path encompasses compilations of positions whose major duties, as determined by NNSA, and basic qualification requirements, as predetermined by OPM, are similar. By design, those occupational attributes and characteristics that allow positions to be grouped into a given career path also serve to exclude these positions from other career paths.

To cite an obvious example, because an engineer and a courier do not perform similar work, or require similar qualifications, these two positions are in different career paths. Positions attributable to a given career path will have traditional grading patterns, and recruitment and promotion patterns, in common with other positions in the career path, but not in common with positions in other career paths.

For instance, the similarity of engineering and scientific positions in performing work directly attributable to NNSA's primary missions and programs, in having common applicant sources, and in requiring similar academic attainments, necessarily distinguishes positions in the Engineering and Scientific Career Path from positions in the Professional, Technical, and Administrative Career Path, or the Technician and Administrative Support Career Path, and vice versa.

Positions in respective career paths are further distinguished by unique grading patterns attributable to the highest level of non-supervisory work traditionally found for positions in that career path. Because the highest level of non-supervisory work varies from career path to career path, pay band structures necessarily differ across career paths.

How is someone selected to be placed in the Future Leaders Career Path?
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The Future Leaders Program (FLP) is a 2-year internship program in the excepted service that provides future leaders with development opportunities, rotational assignments, and on-the-job coaching and training. The pool of candidates for the Future Leaders Career Path (NF) is from outside of NNSA and is primarily obtained by means of on-campus recruiting. Individuals are recruited at both the Bachelors and Master degree levels, depending upon the needs of sponsoring NNSA offices, and enter the program at NF-01 or NF-02.

During the course of the program, individuals may be promoted to NF-03 and, upon graduation from the program, individuals who are in the administrative fields are converted to NQ-02, and individuals in the engineering and scientific fields are converted from their excepted service NF-02 or NF-03 positions to competitive service NN-02 and NN-03 positions.

Developmental opportunities exist in the NQ career path as well, such as the Student Career Employment Program in the excepted service or competitive service career ladder positions advertised by means of a posted vacancy announcement.

For more information on NNSA's Future Leaders Program, click here.

 

How will temporary promotions and details be handled?
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Temporary promotions and details will be handled the same way they were in the General Schedule system. The servicing HR office will determine the content of the position announcement, if it is advertised. Generally, the announcements will be advertised the same way each has been done in the past. An employee can be temporarily promoted to a position in a higher pay band in the same career path, or to a pay band in another career path with higher pay potential. Selection for a temporary promotion for more than 120 days must be done competitively from an advertised position announcement. Pay is typically increased by 8 percent for temporary promotions, whereas there is no increase in salary for detail actions.

What does an employee stand to gain if they apply for a position in the same pay band as they already occupy?
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An employee who applies to a vacancy announcement that is being used to fill a position which is in the same pay band as their current position, may receive a pay increase of up to 5 percent, if they are selected as a best-qualified candidate from a competitive Certificate of Eligible's and provided the position is a fundamentally "different" position than their present position. To be considered a fundamentally different position, the new position must require a substantial change in knowledge and skills, compared to the employee's current position. Indicators of a fundamentally different position include such factors as a change in job title, series, organization, duties, and responsibilities. Placements to essentially the same position (i.e., a re-description of one's current position or movement to one's same position just in a different organization) do not constitute reassignments to a fundamentally different position and, thus, do not warrant a base pay increase.

The supervisor of the position is required to complete a justification for the employee's pay increase which would address how the vacant position is different from the employee's current position, in addition to the employee's qualifications as compared to other applicants, competing job offers the employee may have, the position's historical recruitment difficulty, pay rate received by other employees performing the same duties, employee's salary history identifying previous reassignment and promotion actions (prior 3 years), employee's performance evaluations (prior 3 years), and employee's performance pay increases (prior 3 years).

Reassignment actions should not be used as a way for an employee to move within their band. An NNSA Demonstration Project employee primarily moves within their band based on performance rather than multiple selections for positions within their same band. Please contact your servicing Human Resources Office on further guidance for competitive reassignments.

If an employee is reassigned from one career path to another, can their pay be set at any rate within the new pay band in the new career path?
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If a change in pay band is a result of a reassignment, the employee may be reassigned to a position in the same pay band, or to another pay band in a different career path that has the same pay potential as his/her current position. If this occurs as a result of a competitive action, up to a 5 percent increase can be provided. If the reassignment is made non-competitively, no change in overall pay will occur.

If a change in career path is a result of a competitive promotion, the employee's base pay will be increased by a minimum of 8 percent.

Pay

If step increases go away, how will an employee receive pay increases under pay-banding?
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Employees will be eligible to receive the government-wide annual pay adjustment and a performance pay increase each year based on their rating of record.

Will employees still receive the automatic annual pay adjustment?
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Yes, provided you receive an annual performance summary rating of Fully Meets Expectations (FME) or higher. Employees with a rating of FME or higher will receive the government-wide annual pay adjustment in January. This increase will be referred to as the Annual Pay Adjustment.

What is the Performance Pay Increase?
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The Performance Pay Increase replaces within-grade increases and quality step increases. This pay increase is based on the annual rating of record using a share distribution process.

Employees who receive a FME rating of record are eligible to receive up to two shares and employees who receive a Significantly Exceeds Expectations (SEE) rating of record are eligible to receive up to 4 shares.

Can employees receive a Performance Pay Increase if their pay is at the top of the band?
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Employees rated at the FME level who are eligible for an increase that exceeds the top level of the pay band, will receive a cash payout for the amount that exceeds the top of the pay band. This is called a conversion bonus. The payout is in addition to any other performance awards the employee may be eligible to receive.

Employees who are rated at the SEE level and are at the top of the pay band may receive a pay increase that exceeds the top level of the pay band by 5%. This amount is added to the base salary and becomes the employee's base pay. If the performance pay increase exceeds the 5% extension of the pay band, the employee will receive a conversion bonus for the portion that exceeds the 5% extension of the pay band.

How will an employee be promoted from one pay band to another?
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Employees must typically serve 52 weeks in their current pay band before being eligible for promotion to the next higher pay band. The promotion can be obtained non-competitively if it is a career ladder promotion or can be obtained competitively by being selected from a vacancy announcement.

Will employees who occupy a career ladder position, but have not reached their full performance level, be eligible to continue to receive their career ladder promotions after conversion to the demonstration project?
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Current NNSA employees, who at the time of conversion into the demonstration project have a career ladder to a higher GS grade but have not reached the top level of that career ladder, will be eligible for special in-band pay increases to ensure that their base rate under the demo project is equivalent to the base rate they would have received had they remained in the General Schedule.

Only one promotion equivalent increase may be granted in a consecutive 52 week period and must take into consideration any performance increase which occurs during this same period of time so that the sum of the two increases may not exceed what the employee would have earned had the employee and the position remained in the General Schedule.

Continued eligibility for these promotion equivalent increases will cease when the employee reaches the equivalent pay of the top GS grade in their career ladder. Only current NNSA employees who convert at the inception of pay banding will be afforded this benefit.

After implementation of the demonstration project, career ladder positions will be announced in terms of pay bands rather than grades. New employees hired into career ladder positions will be eligible to be promoted to the next higher pay band in their career ladder after serving a minimum of 52 weeks at the lower pay band. At the time of promotion the employee will receive a minimum pay increase of 8 percent unless a greater increase is necessary to set pay at the normal minimum range of the next higher pay band.

How can employees, who receive performance pay increases at the end of the year, maximize their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions to avoid losing matching contributions?
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This is a continuing issue since TSP eliminated the 15 percent contribution limit, thus allowing employees to contribute large percentages to TSP early in the year--some employees contribute as much as 75 percent of their income at times. Therefore, almost any employee in any pay band could potentially maximize their TSP contributions before the end of the year.

To ensure matching contributions, FERS employees contributing an amount nearing the annual contribution limit of $15,500 dollar limit ($575 bi-weekly) should consider changing their contributions from a percentage value to a specific dollar amount to avoid reaching the annual limit too soon and, thus, losing matching contributions. By changing to a specific dollar amount, the employee could ensure they maximize their TSP deduction without exceeding the $15,500 before the last pay period of 2008.

There are 27 pay periods for NNSA employees in 2008. If an employee has been contributing more than $575 bi-weekly, there is a great TSP calculator to determine what the remaining deductions should be to make sure he or she does not exceed the maximum contribution - TSP Calculator off site link.

Are employees losing their locality pay?
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No, employees will still receive locality pay, this year and in the future, just like a General Schedule employee. The only time they will not receive the annual pay adjustment, which includes locality, will be if their performance summary rating is at the "Needs Improvement" or "Does Not Meet Expectations" level.

Can a GS-11 employee who converted to the Demonstration Project in a position which had a full performance level to a GS-13 receive both a special band increase and a career ladder promotion?
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Yes. An employee who was a GS-11 (with promotion potential to the GS-13) at the time of conversion to the Demonstration Project and moved into the Professional, Technical and Administrative Career Path (NQ), is eligible to receive a special in-band pay increase (grandfather benefit) after serving 52 weeks at the GS-11 grade level and/or a career ladder promotion to the NQ-03 pay band after serving 52 weeks at the NQ-02 pay band.

If a special in-band pay increase is provided within the NQ-02 pay band, the employee must wait at least 52 weeks after receiving that special in-band pay increase before subsequently receiving a promotion to the NQ-03 pay band.

Neither a special in-band increase nor a career ladder promotion is automatic. The supervisor must decide when and which of these actions will take place, based on the employees qualifications and skills level. The supervisor must submit an SF-52, Request for Personnel Action, to the servicing Human Resources Office prior to the requested effective date for either the special in-band increase or promotion action. The employee must have a rating of record of at least FME in order to receive a special in-band increase or promotion and must be placed on a new performance plan within 30days of the effected action.

Performance Management

How does NNSA propose to change the Performance Management Program?
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The demonstration project will not alter NNSA's current awards or recognition with the exception of eliminating Quality Step Increases. However, the project will operate under a new pay-for-performance policy.

How do higher performers receive higher pay increases?
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High performers, or employees who receive a rating level of Significantly Exceeds Expectations (SEE), will receive more shares than those rated at the Fully Meets Expectations (FME) level.

Do poor performers have money taken away?
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No, poor performers will not have money taken away. Instead their pay will be frozen.

However, employees who are not performing at the FME level will not be eligible to receive a performance pay increase and will not automatically receive any pay adjustments, in contrast to the current GS system, which allows all employees to receive, at a minimum, at least the annual pay adjustment in January of each year.

What is the period over which performance is evaluated (e.g., Jan 1 to Dec 31, Mar 1 to Feb 28)?
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NNSA's performance cycle is from October 1 to September 30. Performance plans are effective from the date the employee is notified of the performance expectations. By statute, that is no more than 30 days from the beginning of the performance cycle or from the date an employee is hired or placed into a new position.

Note: For the 2008 performance year, NNSA was allowed to complete its performance plans later than usual due to the implementation of the demonstration project and the Phase II Performance Management training that was provided in January 2008 in support of the demonstration project.

When will employees be notified of their performance ratings?
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Supervisors notify employees of their ratings, and shares, and performance awards AFTER the pay pool process has been completed - typically in the November/December timeframe. The pay pool process includes management certification of the pay pool distribution for every employee in the pool.

Note: Employees are not assigned performance ratings during the mid-year progress review.

When will employees be notified of how much each "share" is worth in terms of dollar or percentage increases?
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Notification of the share value can occur at the same time as notification of the ratings. The process requires that all employees in the pool are rated before the share value can be determined.

What pay adjustments will an employee be eligible for at the SEE, FME, NI and DNME rating levels?
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Rating Annual Pay Adjustment Locality Pay Performance Pay Increase (Shares) Pay above top of band (up to 5%) Pay below minimum rate of band (up to 5%) Conversion Bonus (cash payout) Performance Award
Significantly Exceeds Expectations (SEE)

 v

 v

3-4 shares 

 v

 

 v

 v

Fully Meets Expectations (FME) with no Needs Improvement (NI) or Does Not Meet Expectations (DNME)

 v

 v

1-2 

 

 

 v

 v

FME with 1 NI

 v

 v

 

 

 

 

 

NI

 

 

 

 

 v

 

 

DNME

 

 

 

 

 v

 

 

* If at top of the band, may exceed the band by 5 percent

** Only if employee's pay is at the top of the band.  Pay increase is paid as a conversion bonus.

*** Employees at the FME level may receive a performance award.

**** Separate budget available to fund these awards.