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Bill Could Help Federal Government Address Labor Shortage

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   Staffing Management News

Bill Could Help Federal Government Address Labor Shortage

By Bill Leonard, September 2007

With the U.S. government facing the most severe labor shortage in its history, Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., on Sept. 19, 2007, introduced legislation ( H.R. 3579 ) aimed at alleviating the problem by changing the rules for rehiring federal retirees as part-time and temporary workers.

The Re-Employment of Annuitants Act of 2007 would ease federal salary rules and offer the rehired workers opportunities to assist with short-term projects and help train the next generation of federal employees. According to government estimates, nearly 550,000 employees, or one-third of the federal workforce, will retire over the next five to seven years and, within the next 10 years, 60 percent of the government’s workforce will hit retirement age.

“We’re trying to help the government deal more effectively with the coming tidal wave of retirements by federal employees,” said Davis in a written statement. “We need to tap into the expertise and experience of those employees—particularly with positions that are difficult to fill. They’ve proven their ability, their dedication and their desire to help keep government running smoothly.”

Under the current law, if a retired federal employee returns to work part time or as a temporary worker, the employee either must suspend receiving pension annuities or be paid a salary reduced by the amount of the annuity payments. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asked Davis, ranking minority member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to introduce the legislation. The OPM already makes exceptions to the annuity rule for job positions that are difficult to fill.

“Most retirees today want to remain active, and those who choose to do so by sharing their expertise and experience with younger workers and federal agencies should be encouraged, not penalized,” said Davis, who co-sponsored the legislation with Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., and Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas. “This legislation recognizes the new realities in the federal workforce and addresses conditions that could cripple the federal workforce if we don’t take action now.”

If enacted, the proposal would allow federal agencies to waive the salary rules for federal retirees who accept part-time and temporary positions. The rehired workers would then receive both salary and annuity payments during their time of service. However, they would not accrue additional retirement benefits.

“At a time when the workforce is aging and the federal government is facing a significant loss of experienced talent, it is critical that we find new ways to minimize the effects of this impending brain drain,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service , a Washington, D.C.-based group dedicated to revitalizing the federal government and its workforce.

According to Stier, the proposal will encourage skilled federal workers to stay on the job by offering them a chance to earn a salary plus full annuity benefits.

“Federal agencies will be able to tap a needed source of talent and at the same time facilitate the transfer of knowledge and expertise to future leaders,” Stier said.

The bill was referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A Senate version of the bill has not yet been introduced.

Bill Leonard is senior writer for HR News.

Related Articles:

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HR Could Play Major Role in Reshaping NASA , SHRM Online Staffing Management Focus Area, September 2007

Federal Government Hiring Needs Reaching Critical Mass , SHRM Online Staffing Management Focus Area, August 2007

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