How are within-grade raises earned?
Generally, employees who are not at the highest step of their grade are entitled to receive the within-grade raise authorized for the next step of their position as long as they: complete the required waiting period, have received at least a “fully successful” (or equivalent) rating for their most recent performance appraisal period, and did not receive an equivalent increase in pay during the waiting period.

Waiting periods for within-grade increases for General Schedule grades are as follows: 52 calendar weeks to be advanced to steps 2, 3, and 4; 104 calendar weeks to be advanced to steps 5, 6, and 7; and 156 calendar weeks to be advanced to steps 8, 9, and 10.

Under the Federal Wage System, advancement to the second step occurs after six months of employment, advancement to the third after an additional 18 months, to the fourth after an additional two years, and to the fifth after an additional two years.

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