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IM OA 2017-02, Phased Retirement Program


Issuance Date: 7/6/2017

Expiration Date: Retain until suspended


1. Purpose. This Instructional Memorandum (IM) establishes the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Phased Retirement Program. The information provided here supplements U.S. Office of Personnel Management guidance and the Department of the Interior (DOI) Phased Retirement Program, Personnel Bulletin 15-06. Phased retirement is a management employment tool that allows certain full-time, retirement-eligible employees to work on a part-time work schedule and draw partial retirement benefits. The main purpose of the program is to assist with knowledge transfer in support of continuing the mission of the USGS. The program requires mentoring, training, and/or the transfer of knowledge and skills from retiring employees to others to assist in preparing the next generation of experts for success.

2. References.

A. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 5, Parts 581, 582, 831, 838, 841, 842, 843, 848, 870, and 890.

B. DOI Personnel Bulletin 15-06, Phased Retirement Program, dated 10/16/2015.

3. Policy. Phased retirement is an employment option that requires the consent of both the employee and USGS management when there is a business need to transfer the knowledge of the phased retiree to others. Participation in the Phased Retirement Program is not an employee right or entitlement.

A. Participation.

(1) Managers and employees must acknowledge that they have read and understand DOI Personnel Bulletin 15-06 prior to submitting a DOI Phased Retirement Program Agreement to participate in the USGS Phased Retirement Program, as it contains important information on employee eligibility, time limitations, mentoring requirements, pay and leave considerations, benefits, performance management, labor and employee considerations, as well as the required application documents.

(2) Interested employees should consult with their servicing Benefits Specialist to determine whether they meet the Phased Retirement Program eligibility requirements.

(3) Eligible employees must apply to enter into the Phased Retirement Program. A discussion, with written justification, between the employee and supervisor regarding how knowledge and skills will be transferred is required. The USGS Phased Retirement Program Justification Form (see form at the end of this IM) provides a framework for the discussion and documents the employee’s written justification to enter the program, terms of the agreement, supervisory recommendations, and approvals. The supervisor will submit the justification form for approval/disapproval to the Center Director or Cost Center Manager. Upon approval, the DOI Phased Retirement Program Agreement will be signed and submitted to the servicing Benefits Specialist. Requests to return to regular employee status will only be approved in rare circumstances and when it is in the best interest of the Federal Government.

(4) The authority to approve requests and applications the DOI agreement for phased retirement is delegated from the USGS Director to Center Directors or Cost Center Managers. A request to participate in phased retirement will be coordinated through and based on the recommendation from the employee’s supervisor to the Center Director or Cost Center Manager.

(5) Employees who meet retirement eligibility requirements and the following criteria may be considered to participate in phased retirement:

(a) Non-supervisory employees working a full-time work schedule. Employees must have worked a full-time schedule for three years prior to entering phased retirement.

(b) Employees working a part-time work schedule, or occupying Senior Executive Service, Senior Level, Scientific Professional, Managerial, Supervisory, and Team Leader positions are excluded from participating in phased retirement.

(c) Employees must perform at the fully successful level or above.

(6) While an organization cannot back-fill a phased retiree’s position on a full-time basis because the phased retiree continues to encumber the current position until fully retired, the organization can fill the position on a part-time basis or reassign the employee entering phased retirement to another position as appropriate. The servicing Staffing/Classification Specialist in Human Resources must be consulted for assistance with reassignments or back-filling of the position.

(7) In rare circumstances, such as an unexpected natural disaster, a phased retiree may opt to return to “regular” employee status. This requires a new USGS Phased Retirement Program Justification Form and DOI Phased Retirement Program Agreement with approval from the Center Director or Cost Center Manager.

B. Timeframes.

(1) Employees will be allowed to submit the USGS justification form and DOI agreement form to participate in the program on a quarterly basis during the first month of each quarter (January, April, July, and October). Forms received after the quarterly enrollment period will be held for the beginning of the following quarter. Requests to participate in phased retirement may be considered outside of the quarterly application period only in rare circumstances and require approval from the appropriate Executive Leadership Team member.

(2) Organizational knowledge transfer requirements will determine the length of time an employee may participate in phased retirement before entering into full retirement. The phased retirement agreement may be for a minimum period of 3 months up to a maximum of 1 year.

(3) The effective date of phased retirement will be the first day of the pay period after the phased retirement agreement is approved, or the first day of a future pay period specified by the employee with the approval of the Center Director or Cost Center Manager.

(4) Participation in phased retirement will not exceed 2 years.

C. Approval Criteria. Supervisory recommendation on employee participation must be based on sound business reasons that are mission focused and uphold merit system principles. Multiple requests from employees to enter into phased retirement may be received in an organization. However, the organization may not be able to accommodate the requests. Factors to consider when making a recommendation to approve/disapprove requests to participate in the phased retirement program include:

(1) Phased retirement is in the best interest of the USGS.

(a) There is a business need for the employee to transfer knowledge and provide mentoring and training to other employees in the organization.

(b) It supports the organization’s workforce succession and science plans.

(2) Part-time work schedule (40 hours required per pay period).

(a) The organization’s workload can accommodate the phased retiree’s part-time work schedule.

(b) The employee’s change to a part-time work schedule will not affect the organization’s ability to meet goals and objectives.

(c) The duties can be performed on a part-time basis.

(3) Mentoring.

(a) The employee is willing and able to meet the mentoring requirement.

(b) Transfer of employee knowledge is beneficial to the organization.

(c) There are appropriate mentoring activities available for the employee to perform.

(d) The nature and severity of any prior employee discipline is considered.

(4) Funding. Funds are available to support the position.

D. Knowledge Transfer. Knowledge transfer is required at least 20 percent of the time the employee is working, and it is an essential aspect of phased retirement. Time spent must be tracked and reported to the supervisor using written reports. Some examples of knowledge transfer include:

(1) Acclimating new employees to the USGS.

(2) Transferring knowledge of project work to others.

(3) Training others on the use of specific systems, tools, equipment, or software.

(4) Providing recommendations for upcoming activities to the public, government officials, and/or at local or national meetings.

(5) Providing historical knowledge of a given program to others.

(6) Instructing others on performing administrative tasks.

(7) Developing reference materials that can assist current and future employees.

E. Work schedules and Telework.

(1) The work schedule for employees in phased retirement is 40 hours per pay period.

(2) Working more than 40 hours in a pay period is limited to exceptional circumstances as discussed under 5 CFR Sections 831 and 848, and must be approved by the Center Director or Cost Center Manager. Justification and approval of time worked in excess of 40 hours in a pay period must be documented and maintained by the Center for 6 years. The approving official must ensure that all of the following conditions apply:

(a) The work is necessary to respond to an emergency posing a significant, immediate, and direct threat to life and property.

(b) No other qualified employee is available to perform the required work.

(c) The phased retiree will be relieved from performing excess work as soon as possible.

(d) When an emergency situation can be anticipated in advance, management made advance plans to minimize any necessary overtime work performed by the phased retiree.

(3) Hours worked that exceed 40 hours per pay period may be subject to retirement deductions. However, these hours will not be included when computing retirement benefits.

(4) Employees in phased retirement are allowed to telework, work alternative work schedules, earn credit hours, and earn compensatory time off for travel with advance supervisory approval.

F. Requests for Reconsideration. An employee may make a written request for reconsideration of a denied agreement for phased retirement within 15 calendar days after receiving the decision. The employee must submit a written request for reconsideration to their servicing Employee Relations Specialist. Within 5 days of receipt, the Employee Relations Specialist will provide the reconsideration request to the deciding official. A written reconsideration decision will be based only on the employee’s request for reconsideration, the USGS justification form, the DOI agreement form, and the Center Director or Cost Center Manager’s decision. There is no right to an oral presentation, and the decision will be issued to the employee within 30 days after it is received by the deciding official. The reconsideration decision is final and not subject to further review.

4. Responsibilities.

A. Executive Leadership Team Member.

(1) Approves applications to participate in the Phased Retirement Program that are submitted outside of the quarterly application periods.

(2) Serves as the deciding official for requests for reconsideration.

B. Center Directors and Cost Center Managers. Review and approve DOI Phased Retirement Agreements.

C. Supervisors/Managers.

(1) Discuss the proposed phased retirement agreement and terms with interested employees, make recommendations to the Center Director or Cost Center Manager using the USGS Phased Retirement Justification Form, and review and sign the DOI Phased Retirement Agreement.

(2) Monitor and ensure that program requirements are met (e.g., work schedule, knowledge transfer, mentoring, time limits, etc.) once participation is approved.

D. Human Resources Office.

(1) Provides advice and support to managers, supervisors, and employees.

(2) Processes approved agreements, maintains case files, and monitors compliance with program requirements.




/s/  Jose R. Aragon                                                                     July 6, 2017        


Associate Director for Administration



Prior to completing the DOI Phased Retirement Program Agreement Form, the employee must provide this written justification describing the knowledge/skills that they will transfer to other employees. The justification provides a framework for documenting this information and other terms and conditions between the employee and management if phased employment/retirement is approved. Once completed, this document must be attached to the DOI Phased Retirement Agreement.

Basic Information

Employee Name (Last, First, MI):

Position (Title/Series/Grade):

Office/Mission Area/Region/Cost Center:


Requested Phased Retirement Duration and Part-time Schedule

Start Date:   _________________End Date:   __________________The number of hours worked each day may vary by day but must equal 40 hours in a pay period. The number of hours worked each day may vary by day but must equal 40 hours in a pay period.


Week One: Mon   _____Tues   _____Wed   _____Thurs   _____Fri   _____


Week Two: Mon   _____Tues   _____Wed   _____Thurs   _____Fri   _____


Knowledge Transfer

1. Describe your plans to mentor or transfer knowledge and skills to others:

2. Describe how you will satisfy the needs of your position during the phased retirement period:


Benefits to the USGS

Provide an explanation of how your participation in phased retirement will benefit the USGS:


Employee Request and Signature

I, [Phased Retiree’s name]

_________ Request to apply to the Phased Retirement Program and acknowledge I must:

• Spend and document a minimum of 20 percent of my time in knowledge transfer activities.

• Work schedule is 40 hours each pay period (including leave and holidays).

• Meet all criteria to participate in phased retirement.

• Understand that at the end of this agreement I will enter full retirement (unless a new agreement is approved or I return to regular full-time employment status, if approved).

____ Request to return to regular employment status and acknowledge it will only be approved in rare circumstances.

Signature: __________________________________       Date: _______________


Supervisor Recommendation and Signature

Name: _______________________________ Title: __________________________________

____ I recommend approval as requested. 

____ I recommend approval with the following modifications: 

____ I recommend disapproval for the following reason:


Signature: _________________________________       Date: _____________


Human Resources Review and Signature

Name: _______________________________ Title: ___________________________ 

____ Employee is eligible to participate in the Phased Retirement Program. 

____ Employee is NOT eligible to participate in the Phased Retirement Program (specify reason; i.e., does not meet retirement eligibility requirements, no stated mentoring activities, does not meet criteria).

Signature: ___________________________________       Date: _____________