Temporary promotion rules


Q: Can management temporarily promote (non-competitively) an employee to the lower grade of a six/seven-graded position for 120 days? Are temporary promotions limited to the full-performance level only of a given position? What specific rules support or prevent such actions?

A: Temporary promotions are intended to meet the temporary needs of the agency’s work program when those services can’t be provided by other means.To be temporarily promoted, an employee has to meet the same qualification requirements that are needed for the permanent promotion. He or she receives the higher-graded salary for the period assigned and gains quality experience and time-in-grade at the higher grade level. The first 120 days can be made noncompetitively. In other words, the employee doesn’t have to compete with other employees for the temporary assignment. If the temporary promotion is extended beyond 120 days, competition is required. The maximum time period for a temporary promotion is five years, unless OPM authorizes the agency to make and/or extend it for a longer period. If the temporary promotion that was originally made under competitive procedures, it can be extended up to five years without further competition.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.


  1. How many times can someone be temporarily promoted? For example, if someone was temporarily promoted for 120 days (non-competitively), do they have to wait a year before receiving another temporary promotion?

  2. How long can a person be temporarily promoted to a higher grade and position before they are entitled to be paid for serving in the higher position?

    • If a person is temporarily promoted to a higher grade, he is automatically entitled to the pay of that position. You ma be thinking of a temporary detail, which doesn’t require a change in pay.

  3. Carlos DeBose on

    Can management hire a term employee under a temporary promotion NTE 120, if the employee doesn’t have a career or career conditional appointment.

    • Yes, a term employee can be promoted, changed to lower grade, detailed or reassigned to other positions within the time limits of their term appointments to other positions which the management has determined appropriate for filling by term appointment.

  4. Can you weigh in on this scenario?

    In January, I applied for a promotion from a GS-12 to a GS-13 and made the certificate, then the federal hiring freeze hit. In March, I received a non-competitive temporary promotion NTE 120 days from a GS-12 to a GS-13 for the position that I had applied for in January. Now that the hiring freeze has lifted and a permanent, competitive selection can be made, on April 30, while serving in the non-competitive temporary promotion, I received a permanent competitive promotion to that exact same position.

    My question is that my HR is telling me that since I was serving in the promotion in a non-competitive capacity, that I have to be demoted back to a 12 before I can be competitively promoted back to the 13, thus losing any time in grade that I have earned. But everything I can find online, including OPM, seems to indicate that I should not be demoted. Though the OPM guidance makes no mention of competitive and non-competitive.

    What are your thoughts?

    • According to OPM, you do not have to be returned to your lower graded position when you’ve been competitively selected for the higher graded position. Therefore, your time-in-grade would be continuous.

  5. jennifer reese on

    To qualify for a temporary promotion do you have to have a year at the next lower grade or can you just qualify based on the job you do. Like if I want to temp promote a GS 9 with only 9 month at that level can they still be qualified to be temp promoted at the 11 level.

      • Are you saying that if you are a GS13 you can get a temporary promotion to the next higher grade without having the 52 weeks – if you have taken on the role/duties? Can you share with me where that is located? I have asked this question and I was told no, I did my own research on the OPM website and don’t see it.

        • Yes, you can if you meet any of the exception criteria:
          § 300.603Coverage.
          (a) Coverage. This subpart applies to advancement to a General Schedule position in the competitive service by any individual who within the previous 52 weeks held a General Schedule position under nontemporary appointment in the competitive or excepted service in the executive branch, unless excluded by paragraph (b) of this section.
          (b) Exclusions. The following actions may be taken without regard to this subpart but must be consistent with all other applicable requirements, such as qualification standards:
          (1) Appointment based on selection from a competitive examination register of eligibles or under a direct hire authority.
          (2) Noncompetitive appointment based on a special authority in law or Executive order (but not including transfer and reinstatement) made in accordance with all requirements applicable to new appointments under that authority.
          (3) Advancement in accordance with part 335 of this chapter up to any General Schedule grade the employee previously held under nontemporary appointment in the competitive or excepted service.
          (4) Advancement of an employee from a non-General Schedule position to a General Schedule position unless the employee held a General Schedule position under nontemporary appointment in the executive branch within the previous 52 weeks.
          (5) Advancement of an individual whose General Schedule service during the previous 52 weeks has been totally under temporary appointment.
          (6) Advancement of an employee under a training agreement established in accordance with OPM’s operating manuals. However, an employee may not receive more than two promotions in any 52-week period solely on the basis of one or more training agreements. Also, only OPM may approve a training agreement that provides for consecutive promotions at rates that exceed those permitted by § 300.604 of this part.
          (7) Advancement to avoid hardship to an agency or inequity to an employee in an individual meritorious case but only with the prior approval of the agency head or his or her designee. However, an employee may not be promoted more than three grades during any 52-week period on the basis of this paragraph.
          (8) Advancement when OPM authorizes it to avoid hardship to an agency or inequity to an employee in individual meritorious situations not defined, but consistent with the definitions, in § 300.602 of this part.

  6. Concerned Employee on

    The agency that I work for has been only opening permanent promotions to the higher leadership and tell everyone who is GS-13 and below that they can’t open any permanent slots for promotion because of sequestration. Only temporary promotions have been filled for the last three years. However, other directorates within the same command are filling permanent promotions on a regular basis. Is there any truth to not being able to permanently promote based on the sequestration or continuing resolution?

    • Agencies can control their spending in a variety of ways. Using temporary promotions rather than permanent is one of their options.

  7. Frustrated and Concerned on

    Does time in grade requirements apply to temporary promotions for less than 120 days? And if not, where can I find the regulation?

    • Yes,as long as you are converted to a permanent position without returning to the lower grade. In addition, the time spent on a temporary promotion would be considered creditable service in the calculation of your next WGI. Processing a permanent promotion without moving you back to the lower graded position doesn’t change the date of the “equivalent increase.” Therefore, the waiting period starts on the date of the temporary promotion.

      • Temporary Promotion Extension on

        Can my temporary promotion be extended beyond 120 days if the position has been announced and currently pending permanent fill action?

          • Temp Promotion extension on

            The position was announced competitively as a GS12, but I would not qualify as my temporary promotion is only GS9. Can my promotion be extended until the position is filled?

  8. Can a supervisor deny an employee the opportunity to apply for a competitive temporary appointment (either detail or temp promotion)?

      • Understand that the act of applying can not be denied. If selected for a competitive temporary promotion can a supervisor deny the promotion opportunity to a full successful employee? Is the answer (either way) documented where that I can find it to share with an applicant?

        • Regulations tell you what you can do, not what you can’t. If an employee has applied for a temporary promotion and is selected, no one can block that action.

  9. I have just recently learned about this and am trying to get more information.

    Currently I am a GS5 working in an office that has only 1 of 3 GS9 spots filled. I have for over a year now actively been responsible for a majority of the responsibilities that would normally fall under one of the 9 roles. This has been acknowledged by leadership and I have received multiple praises for my performance. One reason the 9 spots have remained empty is they are in the process of downgrading 2 of the positions to GS7’s. My question is can I and if so how do I go about getting it documented that I have been performing at a 9 level in the absence of one being assigned and receive the pay of such.

    Additionally, is there an avenue to fight for a promotion to the 7 or 9 level based on my performance over the past year or more?

    • How you’ve been performing your job isn’t the issue. It’s the assigned duties assigned in your job description. The only way to find out if those duties are at the GS-7 or GS-9 level is for your personnel office to conduct an audit of your position.

  10. I have a question. I was unofficially temporarily promoted to a higher graded position for over 2 years. I had to take the matter to arbitration for having it documented officially and to get back pay.

    If the arbitrator’s decision is in my favor and they make it official, does the 2 years count towards time-in-grade?

    If it does, does that mean it counts towards my retirement as well?

  11. Can a person be forced to work in a higher grade position without being temporarily promoted? For example, can management make a GS4 work in a GS7 position without temporarily the GS4 to GS7?

      • Can you provide a reference, if someone has been forced to work at a higher grade for 2 years without pay or documentation? Commander (military) wrote a letter to the employee stating he will have to continue to perform the 13 as well as his 11 job, for no additional pay. There is no local HR to challenge this, and despite a request, no SF-50 issued to document it. I would like to be able to point the employee to a law/regulation on this issue.

  12. Hello Reg,
    I have a scenario similar to some of the above situations. I am a permanent GS-13 step 7, due for my WGI to step 8 on 18NOV2017. OPM rules state that increase is effective the following pay period, which would be 26NOV2017.
    However, on 20AUG2017 I was detailed and temporarily promoted to GS-14 step 4 (2 step rule), and continue to serve in that position – likely until 25NOV2017.
    I have now been competitively selected for a permanent GS-14 position in the same geographic area, and my report date is being discussed as 26NOV2017. Based on ‘time served,’ I expect to start at GS-14 step 5. I am concerned I may lose out on a step increase. Should I be? Thank you!

  13. Hello Mr. Jones,

    I was working in an temp promotion position (TCS), then was temporary promoted to the next higher grade NTE 120 days. Upon the end of my temp promotion NTE 120 days, I was told I couldn’t return to the grade I was prior to the temp promotion NTE, I would have to return to my permanent grade prior to my TCS. I never left the location I’m in, however my SF 50 supports I went back to my home station was changed to a lower grade. Is this the proper procedure? If not, what reg should I reference?
    Thank you

  14. I am in the second year of a NTE 3-5 years promotion. I went from GS12 to GS13 for the NTE. Since I have comepleted one year at the GS13, can I now apply and be considered non-competitively for a permanent GS13 position?

  15. Can a lower grade be promoted if they are performing the next higher grade duties on a routine basis? Scenario: My supervisor has been away on and off for ongoing medical treatments for the past year. There are many work weeks where he only works 2 days or takes a week or two off a month for treatment. The result is that the burden of work and duties default to me when the incumbent is away. He is scheduled to retire in 5 to 6 months but the reality is that until then, I will be performing both mine and his duties (30 to 50% of the time) until then.
    I would appreciate any guidance or references to this type of situation.

  16. I am a Gs-4. For the last year and a few months, I’ve taken on half of our secretaries duties, to include supply and contract management. Our secretary has decided to retire next yr. in Feb which is less than 4 months away. The store administrator has asked that she trained ME to take over. It doesn’t bother me, but I feel I should be paid adequately.. please advise

  17. Hi – What is the effect of the Hiring Freeze on a temporary promotion? Would an incumbent in a temporary promotion at the start of a hiring freeze simply be left in their position without the mandatory competition? See https://www.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/OSD000999-17-RES-Final.pdf at p. 5, Section B, part 3.

    Also, it is well-settled that the while the initial temporary promotion can be management’s mandate, what happens if the second 120-day temporary promotion is not competed and simply goes the management’s designee? Sounds like a Prohibited Personnel Practice to me.

  18. I am an 1811 SSA/GS-13. My ASAC (GS-14 position) retired and I was filling the position for just under 120 days. No SF-50, no additional pay provided. Is this a temp promotion or a temp detail? Am I entitled to GS-14 pay? If so, does the agency have to pay me, or is it optional? Thank you!

  19. Hello

    I was temporarily promoted to a 13 and now a reassignment opportunity has come up for a 13. Is that something I am eligible for since technically I am a 13 at the moment?

  20. Hi, I am a GS 13 step 4 eligible for a within-grade increase in 4 months to step 5. I’ve now received a temp NTE one year promotion to grade 14 step 1. My questions are 1) Will I still get a step increase in 4 months to GS 13 step 5, which means I would then also be temporarily promoted to GS 14 step 2? 2) Also when I return in a year to a GS 13, will my one year of GS 14 count for anything, for example if I subsequently get a permanent promotion to GS 14 will my one year prior service as a GS 14 step 1 allow me to go to GS 14 step 2 any faster? Thanks

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