Alternatives to RIFs

An agency is not required to use RIF procedures to achieve a reduction in force due to lack of work, shortage of funds, etc.  It may use other means such as reassigning employees to vacant positions, hiring freezes, voluntary buy-outs, voluntary early retirements, and separating temporary employees (who do not have civil service rights). 

However, if a permanent employee is involuntarily separated from service, demoted or furloughed for more than 30 days due to one of the reasons in the RIF regulations, RIF procedures must be followed.

Given the extremely burdensome requirements for a RIF and the vulnerability of RIF actions to legal challenge, agencies will generally prefer these other methods when possible, and will often see how much can be achieved with them before moving to a RIF:

  • Transfers – must be to positions at the same pay and grade, but need not be in the same line of work or location.  An employee who refuses a transfer may be separated at the discretion of the agency.
  • Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) – for employees with at least 20 years of service and at least age 50, or 25 years of service regardless of age. Use of this authority must be approved by OPM.
  • Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) (buyouts) – permanent employees with at least 3 years of service can get a lump sum payment up to $25,000 for voluntarily retiring or resigning.   Use of this authority must be approved by OPM.