Federal Managers Association
- PROBATIONARY PERIOD REFORM MOVES FORWARD IN HOUSE
In its first business meeting of 2016 on January 12, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will examine reforms for the current length of the probationary period. Representative Ken Buck (R-CO) introduced H.R. 3023, calling to extend the probationary period to two years after an employee's training period is complete. Currently, federal employees under Title V have a one year probationary period that begins as soon as they are hired. However, the federal government employs a diverse workforce that completes a wide array of duties and tasks, which require differing training times.
The Federal Managers Association (FMA) has long advocated for reforms to the probationary period that recognized these differences. FMA, along with members of the Government Managers Coalition (GMC) and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), expressed their support to the Committee in a letter. The group expressed the nuances of the probationary period, stating, "New employees and managers must often master broad and complex procedures and policies to meet their agencies' mission, necessitating several months of formal training followed by long period of on-the-job instruction.... Law makes must afford federal agencies the latitude to extend the probationary period beyond the current length of only one year for relevant jobs." While H.R. 3023 is a step in the right direction to amend the probationary period, the GMC and NARFE went on to comment, "If an employee is subject to formal training lasting more than one month, the employing agency may require a probationary period for the position that begins on the date of the initial appointment and ends one year after the date on which the employee completes formal training."
FMA also testified on the need for reforms to the probationary period before the Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management in May 2015. Before Chairman James Lankford (R-OK) and Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), FMA National President Patricia Niehaus commented, "With a one year probationary period, there is a very small window of time, if any, in which to: identify performance issues; counsel the employee; allow the employee the opportunity to improve; and, take appropriate action to terminate the employee during the probationary period." Because of this dilemma, FMA called for a one year probationary period that begins after training is successfully completed. Additionally, the Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCO) commented to Government Accountability Office (GAO) that often supervisors within federal departments and agencies are not given sufficient time to accurately review performance before the probationary period is complete. CHCOs recommended to the GAO an extension of the probationary period in order to accurately assess an employee’s abilities in the federal workforce. FMA agrees with CHCOs that a one-size-fits-all probationary period does not meet the needs of a diverse federal workforce.