Premium Pay

Chapter 1: Section 7

The term “premium pay” extends to most types of additional pay received by federal employees for working extra hours or performing work that involves unusual situations or requirements such as hazardous duties or night work. Senior Executive Service employees are not entitled to premium pay under any circumstances.

General Schedule employees may receive certain types of premium pay in a pay period only to the extent that the aggregate of basic pay and premium pay for the pay period does not exceed the greater of the biweekly rate payable for: GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable locality payment or special rate supplement); or level V of the Executive Schedule. However, the head of an agency may apply an annual pay cap to certain types of premium pay for any pay period for employees performing work in connection with an emergency, including work performed in the aftermath of such an emergency or for employees performing work critical to the mission of the agency. See Pay Caps in Section 2 of this chapter for details of these and certain other exceptions.

Each entitlement to premium pay is computed separately as a percentage of an employee’s rate of basic pay. No compounding occurs if an employee is entitled to more than one type of premium pay for the same period of work.

Rules for premium pay are at 5 CFR 550 subpart A. Fact sheets are at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration.

Sunday Pay

General Schedule and Federal Wage System workers whose regular schedules require them to work on a Sunday are entitled to their rate of basic pay, plus premium pay computed at a rate of 25 percent of their basic pay rate. This Sunday premium rate generally is applicable to all non-overtime work (that is not in excess of eight hours per shift), although it also may apply where employees work in excess of eight hours under a fixed compressed work schedule. The Sunday work must be part of an employee’s regularly scheduled basic workweek; intermittent employees may not receive Sunday premium pay because, by definition, they do not perform regularly scheduled work.

An employee on a flexible work schedule who performs regularly scheduled non-overtime work during a period of duty, a part of which is performed on Sunday, is entitled to Sunday pay for the entire period of duty, not to exceed eight hours. A full-time employee on a compressed schedule who performs non-overtime work during a period of duty, a part of which is performed on Sunday, is entitled to Sunday pay for the entire period of duty on that day.

When employees work rotating shifts and the “late hour” Saturday shift extends into Sunday or an “early” Monday tour starts on Sunday, such workers are entitled to premium pay for the entirety of both shifts—not to exceed eight hours for each shift—even though a part of the shift work was not actually performed on Sunday.

Federal employees must actually perform work on a Sunday in order to be eligible for Sunday premium pay. Employees are not entitled to Sunday premium pay for periods when no work is performed, such as paid leave time, excused absences, holidays, compensatory time off, or time off granted as an incentive or performance award. Under 5 U.S.C. 5546(a) and 5 CFR 532 and 550, part-time employees are entitled to Sunday premium pay. CPM 2009-21 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals contains guidance on the requirements and on claims for retroactive pay for those improperly denied the pay prior to a May 26, 2009 court decision affirming their eligibility.

Sunday premium pay is not paid for overtime hours of work. An employee under a standard work schedule is entitled to overtime pay for hours of work on Sunday in excess of eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week. An employee whose flexible work schedule includes work on Sunday is entitled to overtime pay for hours of work in excess of eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week and which are officially ordered in advance. An employee whose compressed work schedule includes work on Sunday is entitled to overtime pay for hours of work in excess of the employee’s compressed work schedule on that day.

See 5 U.S.C. 5544(a), 5546(a), and 6128(c), and 5 CFR 550.

Holiday Pay

Full-time employees who are not required to work on a holiday receive their rate of basic pay for the applicable number of holiday hours. Employees under flexible work schedules are credited with eight hours towards their 80-hour basic work requirement for the pay period. Employees under compressed work schedules are generally excused from all of the non-overtime hours they would otherwise work on that day and which apply to their “basic work requirement.”

A part-time employee is entitled to a holiday when the holiday falls on a day when he or she would otherwise be required to work or take leave. Those standard work schedules are generally excused from duty for the number of basic (non-overtime) hours they are regularly scheduled to work on that day, not to exceed eight hours. Those under compressed work schedules are generally excused from all of the non-overtime hours they would otherwise work on that day and which apply to their “basic work requirement.”

Employees who work on a holiday during hours that correspond to their normal tour of duty are entitled to receive holiday premium pay equal to their rate of basic pay. If employees work in excess of eight hours on the holiday or if full-time employees work during hours that do not correspond with their normal tour, they are entitled to receive their regular overtime rate of pay for hours worked in excess of eight in a day or 40 in a week.

This means that employees who work on a holiday that falls on one of their regular workdays must be paid twice their rate of basic pay for not more than eight hours of such work. Any hours worked outside an employee’s regularly scheduled tour of duty on a holiday would be paid at the employee’s overtime rate. An employee who is assigned to duty during holiday hours is entitled to pay for at least two hours of holiday work. An employee on a fixed compressed work schedule who is required to work on a holiday is entitled to holiday premium pay for all non-overtime hours of work.

Premium pay for holiday work also will be paid in addition to night pay differential for regularly scheduled non-overtime work at night, as well as for regularly scheduled non-overtime Sunday work when an employee performs work on a holiday that occurs on a Sunday.

Presidents occasionally issue executive orders closing federal agencies for part or all of a workday. Employees are excused from duty during such periods unless they are “emergency employees,” as determined by their agencies. Such orders often provide that the time off will be treated like a holiday for pay and leave purposes. Employees who are required to work during their basic tour of duty on such days are entitled to holiday premium pay.

See 5 U.S.C. 6103, 6104, and 6124, and 5 CFR 550 and 610.

Night Differential Pay

General Schedule—Night pay is a 10 percent differential paid to a General Schedule employee for regularly scheduled work performed at night. It is computed as a percentage of the employee's rate of basic pay (including any applicable locality payment or special rate supplement). This generally involves work scheduled before the beginning of the administrative workweek. However, night pay is also paid for night work on a temporary assignment to a different daily tour of duty during the administrative workweek. Generally, night work must be performed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., including night work under a compressed work schedule. For posts located outside the United States, the head of an agency may designate a time after 6 p.m. and before 6 a.m. as the beginning and end, respectively, of night work to accommodate the customary hours of business in the locality. An employee is entitled to night pay for paid leave only when the total amount of paid leave during a biweekly pay period is less than eight hours. An employee is entitled to night pay when excused from night work on a holiday or another non-workday, although not for an alternative work schedule non-workday.

If a flexible work schedule includes eight or more hours available for work between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., the employee is not entitled to night pay for voluntarily working flexible hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., including while earning credit hours. An employee is entitled to night pay for hours that must be worked between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. to complete an eight-hour daily tour of duty, and for any non-overtime work performed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. during designated core hours.

Night pay is paid in addition to overtime, Sunday, or holiday premium pay. It is not basic pay for any purpose.

See 5 U.S.C. 5545(a) and 6123(c), and 5 CFR 550.121-122.

Federal Wage System—Wage grade employees receive night shift differential at the rate of 7.5 percent of their hourly rate for non-overtime work when a majority (five or more hours) of the scheduled hours occur between 3 p.m. and midnight, or 10 percent of their hourly rate for non-overtime work when a majority of the scheduled hours occurs between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. Night shift differentials are paid for the entire shift and are included in basic pay rates for purposes of computing overtime pay, Sunday pay, holiday pay, severance pay, and amounts of deductions for retirement and life insurance.

A wage grade employee regularly assigned to a night shift will receive a night shift differential during periods of leave with pay and is entitled to the differential for periods of excused absence on a holiday, while in official travel status during the hours of the employee’s regular night shift, or on court leave. An employee regularly assigned to a night shift will continue to receive his or her regular night shift differential during a temporary assignment to a day shift or to another night shift with a lower differential. See 5 U.S.C. 5343 and 5 CFR 532.505.

Environmental Differential Pay

Federal Wage System employees are entitled under 5 U.S.C. 5343(c)(4) to environmental differentials for duty involving unusually severe working conditions or unusually severe hazards, and for any hardship or hazard related to asbestos, as determined by the Office of Personnel Management. The categories justifying environmental differentials are in Appendix A of 5 CFR 532 subpart E. Eligibility due to exposure to asbestos is determined by the permissible exposure limits established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The differential is equal to the percentage rate approved by OPM for the particular job category, multiplied by the rate of pay for WG-10, step 2 for the appropriated fund employees and the rate of pay for NA-10, Step 2 for the non-appropriated employees. For example, a wage grade employee working on a structure at least 100 feet above the ground, deck, floor or roof of a facility or in the bottom of a tank or pit receives a differential of 25 percent, while another worker performing ground work beneath a hovering helicopter is eligible for a 15 percent differential. Employees entitled to a differential based on actual exposure will be paid a minimum of one hour’s differential pay for the exposure. For exposure beyond one hour, workers are paid in increments of one quarter hour for each 15 minutes or portion thereof in excess of 15 minutes. Employees entitled to a differential based on hours in a pay status will be paid for all hours in the pay status on the day they are exposed.

Environmental differentials are included as part of a wage grade employee’s basic rate of pay for computation of overtime, holiday pay, Sunday pay, and the amount of retirement, Thrift Savings Plan, and life insurance deductions. It is not part of basic pay for purposes of severance pay or lump-sum annual leave payments on separation from service.

Hazardous Duty Pay

General Schedule employees are entitled under 5 U.S.C. 5545(d) to a hazardous duty pay differential for duty involving unusual physical hardship or hazard, and for any hardship or hazard related to asbestos, as determined by the Office of Personnel Management, that have not already been accounted for in the job classification. The categories justifying hazardous duty pay are in Appendix A of 5 CFR 550 subpart I. Eligibility due to exposure to asbestos is determined by the permissible exposure limits established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

“Physical hardship” means a duty that may not in itself be hazardous, but causes extreme physical discomfort or distress and is not adequately alleviated by protective or mechanical devices. Examples of such duties are tasks involving exposure to extreme temperatures for a long period of time, arduous physical exertion, or exposure to fumes, dust, or noise that causes nausea, skin, eye, ear, or nose irritation. Similarly, a “hazard” is a job situation or duty in which an employee runs the risk of suffering an accident that could result in serious injury or death.

Pay differentials for these types of assignments range up to 25 percent, with the majority being set at 25 percent. For example, an employee working in a confined space that is subject to temperatures in excess of 110 degrees is eligible for a 4 percent differential, while an employee arming or disarming a propulsion system will receive a 25 percent differential.

Regulations at 5 CFR 550.904 allow an agency to approve payment of hazardous duty pay when the hazardous duty or physical hardship has not been taken into account in the classification of the position (that is, the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform the duty are not considered in the classification of the position). If the hazardous duty has been taken into account in the classification of the position, an agency may authorize payment of hazardous duty pay only when the actual circumstances of the specific hazard or physical hardship have changed from that taken into account and described in the position description; and, when using the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position and described in the position description, the employee cannot control the hazard or physical hardship; thus, the risk is not reduced to a less than significant level.

Hazardous duty pay may be paid only to employees who are assigned hazardous duties or duties involving physical hardship for which a differential is authorized. It may not be paid to an employee who undertakes to perform a hazardous duty on his or her own, without proper authorization, either expressed or implied.

When an employee performs a duty for which a hazard pay differential is authorized, the agency must pay the hazard pay differential for all of the hours in which the employee is in a pay status on the day on which the duty is performed. The pay is not included as part of the employee’s basic rate of pay for computation of overtime, holiday pay, Sunday pay, or the amount of retirement, Thrift Savings Plan, and life insurance deductions.

Administratively Uncontrollable Overtime

“Administratively uncontrollable overtime” refers to work in a job that unpredictably requires substantial amounts of irregular or occasional overtime, and in which the employees generally are responsible for recognizing, without supervision, circumstances that require them to remain on duty. General Schedule employees, other than certain criminal investigators (see Availability Pay below) may be granted AUO premium pay on an annual basis if their job requires substantial amounts of irregular or occasional overtime work that cannot be controlled administratively. AUO premium payments are set as a percentage of an employee’s basic pay, from 10 to 25 percent. Employees who are receiving AUO pay are not eligible for any other kinds of premium pay for irregular or occasional overtime work.

The rate of AUO pay authorized for a position is based on the average number of hours of irregular or occasional overtime work performed per week. For example, a 25 percent rate is authorized for a position that requires an average of over nine hours per week of irregular or occasional overtime work. (See 5 CFR 550.154.) Agency reviews of the percentage of AUO pay paid to employees must be conducted “at appropriate intervals,” commonly every three to six months. The percentage of annual premium pay may be revised or, if appropriate, discontinued. (See 5 CFR 550.161(d).) An employee who receives AUO pay may also receive overtime pay on an hourly basis for regularly scheduled overtime work. Regularly scheduled overtime work creates an entitlement to overtime pay on an hour-for-hour basis and generally must be officially ordered or approved by a supervisor or manager in advance of the employee’s regularly scheduled administrative workweek. (See 5 U.S.C. 5542(a).)

If an employee who is engaged in law enforcement activities (including security personnel in correctional institutions) receives AUO pay and is nonexempt from (covered by) the overtime pay provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, he or she is entitled to additional overtime pay equal to 0.5 times the employee’s hourly regular rate of pay for all hours of work in excess of 42.75 hours in a week, including meal periods within the tour of duty. Other nonexempt employees who receive AUO pay and who are not engaged in law enforcement activities are entitled to additional FLSA overtime pay equal to 0.5 times their hourly regular rate of pay for all hours of work in excess of 40 hours in a week, not including meal periods.

Detailed guidance on the relationship between FLSA overtime pay and AUO pay is in a fact sheet at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration.

An employee receiving AUO pay may not receive any other premium pay (for example, night Sunday and holiday pay) for irregular and occasional overtime hours that are compensated by AUO pay. (See 5 CFR 550.163(b).) In addition, hazardous duty pay may not be paid for irregular and occasional overtime hours of work that are compensated by AUO pay. (See 5 CFR 550.905(b).)


Temporary Assignments—Rules at 5 CFR 550.162(c)(1) provide that an agency may continue to pay AUO pay for not more than 10 consecutive workdays on a temporary assignment to other duties in which conditions do not warrant AUO pay and for a total of not more than 30 workdays in a calendar year while on such a temporary assignment. An agency must discontinue an employee’s AUO pay when a temporary assignment exceeds these time limits.

However, rules at 5 CFR 550.162 authorize payment of AUO pay during a temporary assignment that would not otherwise warrant the payment of AUO pay if the temporary assignment is directly related to a national emergency declared by the President. Under those rules, an agency may continue to pay AUO pay for not more than 30 consecutive work days for such a temporary assignment and for a total of not more than 90 workdays in a calendar year while on such a temporary assignment. Time during which an employee continues to receive AUO pay under those provisions is not considered in computing the weekly average number of irregular overtime hours used in determining the amount of an employee’s future AUO payments.

Availability Pay

Availability pay is premium pay fixed at 25 percent of basic pay (including locality pay) granted to certain law enforcement personnel who have criminal investigation responsibilities (see 5 U.S.C. 5542(d) and (e), 5 U.S.C. 5545a, and 5 CFR 550.181-187, .103 and .111(f)), replacing the use of administratively uncontrollable overtime (AUO) pay for employees in this category.

Eligible categories include employees in the GS-1811 (criminal investigations) and GS-1812 (game law enforcement) series, certain pilots employed in customs enforcement, and special agents in the Diplomatic Security Service of the Department of State. Higher graded law enforcement officers may be entitled to a lesser amount if their availability pay causes them to exceed the maximum earnings limitation for law enforcement officers. That limitation is 150 percent of the lesser of the minimum rate of GS-15 (including a special rate of pay or locality pay) or the rate of pay for level IV of the Executive Schedule.

Availability pay must be paid to qualified criminal investigators who meet the legal definition of a “law enforcement officer.” An annual certification must be made by both the criminal investigator and an appropriate supervisory official. The annual certification must stipulate that the investigator works, or is available to work, an annual average of two hours of “unscheduled duty” per regular workday as requested by the employing agency.

An agency may not pay a criminal investigator receiving availability pay annual premium pay for administratively uncontrollable overtime work or regularly scheduled standby duty, or overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Receipt of availability pay does not affect a criminal investigator’s entitlement to other types of premium pay (including Title 5 overtime pay) based on regularly scheduled duty hours. However, a criminal investigator receiving availability pay may not be paid any other premium pay based on unscheduled duty hours. Title 5 overtime pay is authorized only for overtime work scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek that is either in excess of 10 hours on a day containing part of the basic 40-hour workweek or on a day that does not include part of the basic 40-hour workweek.

Availability pay is considered basic pay only for purposes of calculating advances in pay, severance pay, workers’ compensation, life insurance and retirement benefits, and Thrift Savings Plan investments. Also see the fact sheet at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration.

Standby-Duty/On-Call Time

Under 5 U.S.C. 5544-45, employees in positions requiring them regularly to remain at, or within the confines of, his station during longer than ordinary periods of duty, a substantial part of which consists of remaining in a standby status rather than performing work, receive premium pay for the duty. The rules on standby duty are in 5 CFR 550.112(k), for employees who are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, and in 5 CFR 551.431, for FLSA-covered employees.

Regulations at 5 CFR 550.143(a) provide that, in order to trigger an entitlement to premium pay, the requirement to remain at, or within the confines of the station must be definite and the employee must be officially ordered to remain at his station. The employee’s remaining at his station must not be merely voluntary, desirable, or a result of geographic isolation, or solely because the employee lives on the grounds.

The regulation further provides that the statutory phrase “at, or within the confines of his station,” may mean in an employee’s living quarters, when designated by the agency as his duty station and when his whereabouts are narrowly limited and his activities are substantially restricted. This condition exists only when an employee is required to remain at his living quarters and is required to hold himself in a state of readiness to answer calls for his services. This limitation on an employee’s whereabouts and activities is distinguished from the limitation placed on an employee who is subject to call outside his tour of duty but may leave his quarters provided he arranges for someone else to respond to calls or leaves a telephone number by which he can be reached should his services be required.

If an employee is actually on duty for a 24-hour shift and meets the requirements in OPM’s regulations for standby duty pay, he or she is entitled to receive pay for at least 16 hours (eight hours of basic pay and eight hours of overtime pay) of the 24-hour shift. Up to eight hours of sleep and meal time may be excluded from a 24-hour shift as long as the employee has a reasonable opportunity to sleep. (See 5 CFR 550.112(m) and 551.432.) Employees receiving overtime pay for standby duty continue to be subject to the biweekly and annual limitations on premium pay. See Pay Caps in Section 2 of this chapter.

If an employee is relieved from duty with minimal restrictions on personal activities, although limited in where he or she may go, the employee may be placed off duty. If an employee is off duty, the off-duty hours are not compensable. Periods during which an employee is required to remain at a work location are not considered compensable hours of work if the employee is detained for reasons not under the control of the agency or not related to work requirements.

General Schedule employees may be eligible for annual standby duty pay if their tour of standby duty is established on a regularly recurring basis over a substantial period (generally at least a few months). Annual standby pay rates range from 5 percent up to 25 percent per year of an employee’s basic pay that doesn’t exceed the GS-10, step 1 cap, including any locality pay. The amount authorized depends on the nature of an employee’s standby schedule. Employees receiving annual standby duty pay are not eligible for overtime, night, and holiday pay, other than pay for irregular or occasional overtime work.

Call-Back Pay

This type of premium payment is provided to Federal Wage System employees who get called back to the worksite to work extra hours after completing a tour of duty. Employees who are called back must receive a minimum of two hours of overtime pay, even if they are sent home without working that amount of time. Call-back pay rights extend to overtime work performed after hours and on an employee’s scheduled day off. If the call-back occurs during regularly scheduled non-overtime work on a holiday, employees must be paid two hours of holiday premium pay instead of overtime.

Similarly, General Schedule employees who are called back to the worksite to work overtime after completing their tour of duty must receive at least two hours of overtime pay or compensatory time off. This includes overtime work after hours and on days off. If the call-back occurs on a holiday, the two hour minimum also applies and the employee must be paid at least two hours of holiday premium pay. However, if a full-time employee is called back on the holiday outside the normal tour of duty, either before or after, the employee is entitled to receive a minimum of two hours of overtime pay.

Free E-Newsletter

FederalDAILY

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.

Stay Connected

Latest Forum Posts

Ask the Expert

Have a question regarding your federal employee benefits or retirement?

Submit a question