Probationary periods change for federal civilian employees

HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense issued policy memo Sept. 27, 2016, requiring all new federal employees appointed within the Department of Defense to permanent positions in the competitive service, as well as those newly appointed to career senior executive service (SES) positions, are required to serve a two-year probationary period. The requirement for new employees to serve a two year probationary period is retroactive to November 26, 2015. 

Section 1105 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2016 amended Title 10, United States Code (U.S.C.), by adding section 1599e. In accordance with this new section, the appointment of “covered employees” within the DOD shall become final only after the employee has served a probationary period of two years. The term “covered employees” is defined as individuals who are appointed to permanent positions in the competitive service and individuals who received career appointments in the SES within DOD on or after November 26, 2015. This change does not apply to individuals appointed prior to November 26, 2015. This change also does not apply to individuals appointed in the excepted service.

Other than the change in the length of probationary service as specified above, there are no changes in determining when a probationary period is required. Employees who have completed a probationary period under an initial appointment in the competitive service, having attained full appeal rights to the Merit Systems Protection Board, do not have to serve another or extended probationary period under this authority. There are no changes for crediting prior federal civilian service toward completion of a probationary period for competitive service employees, as outlined in 5 C.F.R. § 315.802(b) and 5 C.F.R. § 317.503(d)(4) for members of the SES. There is also no change in crediting periods of absence under 5 C.F.R. §§ 315.802(c) and 317.503(d)(1)-(3).

Effective the pay period beginning October 16, 2016, all new employees appointed to permanent positions in the competitive service and newly appointed career senior executives were notified of the two-year probationary period via a remark on their Standard Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action. IAW NDAA16, Air Force also applied to the requirement for a two-year probationary period retroactively to approximately 8,000 Air Force employees who have been appointed since November 25, 2015, and are subject to a probationary period.