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What flexibilities do agencies have on pay limits?
On the request of an agency, the Office of Personnel Management may approve exceptions to statutory limitations on annual Federal Wage System pay adjustments for an occupation or group of occupations in a wage area or part of a wage area.

OPM also may approve critical position pay, raising the pay cap typically up to the rate for Level II of the Executive Schedule, for a position that requires expertise of an extremely high level in a scientific, technical, professional, or administrative field and that is critical to the agency’s successful accomplishment of an important mission. This authority applies to General Schedule employees, senior level and senior scientific and technical employees, members of the Senior Executive Service, Executive Schedule officials, and certain other designated positions. It does not apply to Federal Wage System employees.

An agency may make an exception to the GS-15, step 10, biweekly limitation on premium pay during emergencies involving a direct threat to life or property. If the agency determines that such an emergency exists, the premium pay paid to an employee performing work in connection with that emergency, when added to the employee’s rate of basic pay (including any locality payment or special salary rate), must not cause his or her total pay to exceed the rate for GS-15, step 10 (including any locality payment or special salary rate), on a calendar year basis. (Note: A different limitation applies to law enforcement officers.)

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