Pay, benefits, and work-life balance at HHS

Federal benefits are among the best offered both in the private and public sectors. Benefits vary depending on the agency within HHS and many overlap. Eligibility depends on the position held and whether employment is full-time, part-time, or intermittent. While this list highlights the majority of benefits one might expect to be offered with a federal position, this list is not comprehensive and benefits may change. 

The Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) implements the programs and delivers the services for human capital management and benefits that enable HHS to meet its strategic goals.

    • The General Schedule (GS) classification and pay system covers the majority of civilian white-collar Federal employees (about 1.5 million worldwide) in professional, technical, administrative, and clerical positions. 

    • GS classification standards, qualifications, pay structure, and related human resources policies (e.g., general staffing and pay administration policies) are administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on a Governmentwide basis. 

    • Each agency classifies its GS positions and appoints and pays its GS employees filling those positions following statutory and OPM guidelines.

    • The GS pay schedule has 15 grades and 10 steps in each grade covering more than 400 occupations. Pay varies by geographic location.

    • The law requires a two-part GS pay adjustment in January each year with pay adjustments based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

    • Based on legal requirements, BLS conducts locality pay surveys in 47 separate geographic areas, with survey data representing non-Federal salaries (including State and local) at distinct levels of work.

    • Since a distinct work-level to work-level pay comparison is required, beginning pay rates for GS jobs must be compared to beginning pay rates for non-Federal jobs at the same level of work, etc.

    • In the locality pay program, Federal pay is compared to non-Federal pay for the same levels of work. The results of such pay comparisons can be found in annual recommendations of the Federal Salary Council and in annual reports of the President’s Pay Agent.

    • Medical coverage is available for employees, their spouses, and their dependent children (under age 26). 

    • There are many options, including fee-for-service or HMO plans, with costs shared by the government. The government pays a substantial amount of the premium cost and the employee’s portion is paid through payroll deduction.

    • Medical examination is not required to obtain coverage.

    • No restrictions due to age, current health, or pre-existing medical condition.

    • Premiums, as well as out-of-pocket costs, can be paid with pre-tax dollars.

    • If you want more dental coverage than what your health plan offers, the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Plan (FEDVIP) provides comprehensive dental insurance with no waiting periods (except orthodontia in some plans). You have several plans to choose from, each covering:

      • Routine exams and cleanings

      • Crowns

      • Root canals

      • Fillings

      • Orthodontics

      • X-rays 

      • Dentures

    • If you want more vision coverage than what your health plan offers, FEDVIP provides comprehensive vision insurance for you and your eligible family members. You have four plans to choose from, each covering:

      • Routine eye exams

      • Contact lenses

      • Discounts on laser eye surgery

      • Eyeglass frames and lenses

  • Telework is a work arrangement that allows an employee to perform work — during any part of regular, paid hours — at an approved alternative worksite (e.g., home, telework center). It is an important tool for achieving a resilient and results-oriented workforce. 

    • Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) refer to a variety of schedule options that provide an alternative to the standard 8:30am to 5:00pm workweek. 

    • AWS is available to HHS employees with supervisory approval. 

    • Adjustable work hours can assist employees in balancing the demands of the workplace with their personal responsibilities and as well as help alleviate commuting frustrations. 

    AWS encompasses Flexible Work Schedules and Compressed Work Schedules.

  • Agencies have considerable discretionary authority to provide additional compensation and leave benefits to support their employee recruitment, relocation, and retention efforts.

    Annual leave — also known as vacation or paid time off — is one type of leave offered by HHS. The amount of annual leave employees earn depends on their length of Federal service and the number of hours in their scheduled tour of duty. 

    • Employees with fewer than three years of service accrue 13 days of annual leave per year.

    • Employees with three years but fewer than 15 years of service accrue 20 days per year.

    • Employees with 15 or more years accrue 26 days per year.

    • For all employees, sick leave is 13 days per year, which may accumulate without limit.

    • All employees are also eligible for Family-Friendly Leave Policies, with flexibility for events such as birth or adoption of a child, care of a sick family member, or care of yourself in response to a serious health condition or emergency.

  • The ten paid federal holidays are:

    • New Year’s Day (January 1)

    • Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday (Third Monday in January)

    • President’s Day (Third Monday in February)

    • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)

    • Independence Day (July 4)

    • Labor Day (First Monday in September)

    • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)

    • Veterans Day (November 11)

    • Thanksgiving (Fourth Thursday in November)

    • Christmas (December 25)

  • Incentives and awards are not guaranteed, and vary by agency, but could include:

    • Periodic performance-based pay adjustments (within grade/step increases)

    • Cost of Living Allowances (COLA)

    • Special salary rates for selected positions

    • Recruitment and relocation incentives

    • Employee recognition through Incentive Awards Program

  • Many HHS agencies offer commuter benefits, such as transportation stipends to employees who commute to work by public transportation rail (e.g., subway, commuter, and light rail), bus (e.g., transit authority and commuter), ferry, van pool, or bicycle. 

  • Wellness and fitness programs and opportunities vary by agency but could include:

    • Innovative wellness programs

    • Fitness centers and nutrition counseling

    • Elder care and parenting support groups

    • Confidential referrals, resources, and professional counseling services for employees and qualified family members who may be facing personal or work-related problems

  • Child care services vary by agency and might include:

    • Child care providers on or near the work site

    • Child care tuition subsidy provided for lower-income employees

    • The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a 401(k)-type plan with choice of investment funds and government matching contributions up to 5%.

    • The TSP is a defined contribution plan, meaning that the retirement income you receive from your TSP account will depend on how much you (and your agency, if you are eligible to receive agency contributions) put into your account during your working years and the earnings accumulated over that time.

    • If you are covered by the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), the TSP is one part of a three-part retirement package that also includes your FERS basic annuity and Social Security.

    • If you are covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or are a member of the uniformed services, the TSP is a supplement to your CSRS annuity or military retired pay.

    • The Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program is the largest group life insurance program in the world, covering over 4 million Federal employees and retirees, as well as many of their family members.

    • In most cases, new Federal employees are automatically covered by Basic life insurance and the payroll office deducts premiums from your paycheck unless the employee waives the coverage.

    • The cost of Basic insurance is shared between the employee and the Government. The employee pays 2/3 of the total cost and the Government pays 1/3. Age does not affect the cost of Basic insurance but employees pay the full cost of Optional insurance, and the cost depends on age.

    • The federal Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a pre-tax benefits program that allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars for qualifying medical, child care, or adult care expenses.

    • Health Care FSA to set aside up to 2,500 per covered employee in pre-tax dollars for out-of-pocket medical expenses and other benefits not covered by your health plan.

    • Dependent Care FSA to set aside up to 5,000 in pre-tax dollars to cover daycare or other expenses related to the care of a child or qualifying dependent adult.


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