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Pay, Benefits and Leave

How Pay Banding Works

NIST positions are classified according to career path and pay band, instead of by the General Schedule (GS)grade system. 

Career paths are categories of occupations grouped by similarities in work, qualification requirements, pay ranges and career progression.

The NIST Alternative Personnel Management System (APMS) is a Pay-for-Performance system. 

The rate of pay for NIST APMS employees may be adjusted periodically to correspond with pay rate changes approved by the President for general schedule (GS) employees. A variety of factors, including pay rates in comparable positions in private industry and locality pay increases, factor into these decisions.

Pay for Performance

Under the APMS, employees are considered for performance-related pay increases and bonuses as a part of the annual performance appraisal process. 

Employees' pay may be increased in two ways: 1) through an annual one-time, performance-based cash award and/or 2) an increase to base pay based on an employee's performance rating and career path.

Pay Increases

Under the Federal Wage System (FWS), each grade of a regular wage schedule (WG) has five rates to which an employee may progress with satisfactory work performance. Employees under a regular wage schedule may advance to Rate 2 after 26 weeks at Rate 1; to Rate 3 after 78 weeks at Rate 2; and to Rates 4 and 5 after 104 weeks at the next lower rate.

Different prevailing rate wage schedules are established for different types of work, e.g., apprentice (WT), leader (WL), supervisor (WS), or planner-estimator (WD). Rates of pay for these prevailing rate jobs are different in different localities and are set by periodic surveys of the rates being paid by typical employers in each locality.

Pay increases for SES and ST-3104 employees result from performance pay adjustments.

Federal Benefits

Federal employees are offered a generous benefits package. Many of the benefits programs are administered for the entire Federal government by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other organizations. More information about federal benefits can be found at the links below.

Leave Administration

Annual Leave

Annual leave is time off for vacations, personal use, or as a substitute for leave without pay under the Family and Medical Leave Act. To be eligible to earn annual leave, you must have been hired on an appointment for 90 days or more. The amount of annual leave you earn, referred to as your "leave category," depends on the length of your federal/military service as shown in the following chart.

Years of Service

Hours Earned Each
Biweekly Pay Period*

Total Days Per Year

Up to 3

4 hours

13 days

3 to 15

6 hours

20 days

15 and over

8 hours

26 days

*Part-time employees' earnings of annual leave are prorated in proportion to the number of hours worked and leave category. For less than 3 years of service, one hour of leave is earned for each 20 hours worked; for 3-14 years of service, one hour of leave is earned for each 13 hours worked; and for 15 years or more of service, one hour of leave is earned for each 10 hours worked.

Carryovers: The total number of hours that may carry over from one leave year to the next is 240 hours for non-SES employees. SES employees may carry over up to 720 hours to the next leave year. Exceptions to these limitations may be approved under special circumstances provided for under leave restoration regulations contained in the DoC Handbook of Leave Administration, or another applicable authority.

Use: While you have a right to use the annual leave you earn, your absence on annual leave must be approved by your supervisor. Usually, you must get approval for leave in advance. In emergency situations, where you could not foresee the need to take leave, you must notify your supervisor as soon as possible.

Sick Leave

Sick leave is time off when you are unable to do your job due to illness; for adoption of a child; for taking care of a family member or as a substitute for leave without pay under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Earnings: All full-time employees, regardless of their length of service, earn 4 hours of sick leave each biweekly pay period. Part-time employees earn sick leave at the proportional rate of one hour for each 20 hours in a pay status.

There is no limit on the amount of sick leave you can carry over from one leave year to the next. It is to your advantage to preserve your sick leave in case you need it for a serious injury or a long illness. If you leave the government, there is no payment for unused sick leave, but such leave is re-credited if you are reemployed with the federal government.

Created August 31, 2017, Updated October 23, 2023