495 Formal Awards

495.1 Overview

The characteristics of Formal Awards are shown in Exhibit 495.1.

Exhibit 495.1 

Formal Awards

 

Type

Who Is Eligible

Description

Approval Authority

Basis

Limit

Spot cash

Non-Inspection Service, career employees

Check issued by Accounting Services.

Manager or Postmaster EAS-22 or higher

Recognizes sustained high-quality performance that is likely to continue or a specific action or accomplishment beyond normal work requirements.

From $50 to $3,000 per award. Limit is $3,000 per employee per fiscal year.

Spot Cash Equivalent

Non-Inspection Service, career employees

Cash equivalent item purchased locally from authorized vendor.

Manager or Postmaster EAS-22 or higher

Recognizes sustained high-quality performance that is likely to continue or a specific action or accomplishment beyond normal work requirements.

From $100 to $3,000 per award. Limit is $3,000 per employee per fiscal year.

Spot Noncash Tangible

Non-Inspection Service, career employees

Merchandise item, clothing, etc., purchased locally.

Manager or Postmaster EAS-22 or higher

Recognizes sustained high-quality performance that is likely to continue or a specific action or accomplishment beyond normal work requirements.

From $100 to $3,000 per award. Limit is $3,000 per employee per fiscal year.

Spot Gift Certificate

Non-Inspection Service, career emplyeess

Gift card or certificate purchased locally from an authorized vendor.

Manager or Postmaster EAS-22 or higher

Recognizes sustained high-quality performance that is likely to continue or a specific action or accomplishment beyond normal work requirements.

From $1 to $3,000 per award. Limit is $3,000 per employee per fiscal year.

Noncareer Gift Certificate

Noncareer employees

Gift card or certificate purchased locally from an authorized vendor.

Manager or Postmaster EAS-22 or higher

Recognizes sustained high-quality performance that is likely to continue or a specific action or accomplishment beyond normal work requirements.

From $1 to $100 per award. Limit is $500 per employee per fiscal year.

Quality Step Increase (QSI)

Career bargaining unit employees

Change in base pay.

See 495.4

See 495.4

Step increase (see 495.4).

495.11 Presenting Awards

Whenever possible, an award should be presented by the installation head or designee, in front of coworkers, with the appropriate amount of ceremony. The award may be presented along with a letter of appreciation describing the reason for the award to the recipient on Postal Service letterhead in an official service award folder. Folders may be ordered from the Material Distribution Center under the following item number:

 

Item No.

Description

0-1100-H

Service Award Folder (Single Window)

495.2 Spot Award

495.21 Purpose

The purpose of a Spot Award is to provide immediate recognition for a specific action or achievement beyond what is normally expected of an employee. It is not to be used as an incentive for pre-established goals or objectives. A Spot Award may be used to recognize a wide range of performance or actions.

495.22 Description

A Spot Award is one of the following:

  1. A check issued by Accounting Services (see 491.31).
  2. A cash equivalent product that can be immediately converted to cash. (See 491.32 for an explanation of cash equivalent awards.)
  3. A merchandise item of at least $100 in value (see 491.33).
  4. A gift certificate (see 491.34).

A Spot Award is always considered ordinary income for tax purposes. Depending on the award type and amount, cash equivalent items, gift certificate, and noncash tangible awards may be grossed up for income tax purposes. (See 491.3 for more information on the tax impact of awards and grossing up for tax purposes.)

Note: Cash awards are not grossed up.

495.23 Eligibility

All non-Inspection Service career employees are eligible to receive Spot Awards. Eligibility for Spot Awards is without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or presence of physical or mental disability.

495.24 Basis

The basis for presenting a Spot Award is an employee contribution (sustained performance, achievement, invention, special act, or service) that exceeds usual work requirements. (See 495.442 for comparison with Quality Step Increase.) The employee must:

  1. Exceed requirements in one or more important job elements for 12 months or more.
  2. Devise new or improved methods that save manpower, space, materials, equipment, or other cost items.
  3. Contribute to outstanding economy, efficiency, added income, or measurably improved service to the public.
  4. Break production records or inspire others to improve quantity and quality of work.
  5. Risk life or personal safety in an act of heroism.
  6. Maintain work schedule in absence of supervisor or meet unusual demands of higher level duties on one’s own initiative.
495.25 Approval Authority
495.251 Headquarters and Headquarters–Related Field Units

Officers, PCES executives, and their designees who are EAS-22 and above may approve Spot Awards for eligible Headquarters and Headquarters-related field unit employees.

495.252 Areas

Area vice presidents, area managers, and their designees who are EAS-22 and above, may approve Spot Awards for eligible area employees, in accordance with Postal Service and area office policy.

495.253 Field

District managers, senior plant managers, postmasters, and other managers who are EAS-22 and above may approve Spot Awards for eligible employees under their jurisdiction in accordance with Postal Service and local guidelines for employee recognition.

495.26 Recommending an Award

The recommendation for a Spot Award is initiated in eAwards by the immediate supervisor, postmaster, or management official with knowledge of the employee or group contribution. The recommendation is initiated promptly, but no later than 1 year after the date of the achievement, act, or period covering the performance.

The recommending official reviews the employee’s job description, assigned duties, and performance requirements and decides to what degree the contribution exceeds average requirements by:

  1. Measuring the amount of savings or degree of improvement realized in relation to job responsibilities. (Savings alone cannot be used to determine an award. Higher-level employees are expected to effect more significant improvements and benefits than employees at lower levels.)
  2. Determining the extent of contribution and benefits outside the employee’s immediate installation.
  3. Considering the degree of ingenuity, magnitude of accomplishment, and nonmonetary benefits represented by the contribution.

Note: The nominee should not be advised of the recommendation in advance of its approval.

495.27 Evaluating and Approving the Award

The approving official evaluates the recommendation, decides if an award is warranted, and approves the recognition in eAwards.

When, in the opinion of the approving official, the accomplishment fails to meet the outlined criteria for Spot Award recognition or if the award amount needs to be modified, the award submission is returned to the recommender via eAwards, with comments as to why it is being returned and any further handling instructions.

495.28 Processing

All Spot Cash Awards are requested, approved, and generated via eAwards. When a Spot Cash award submission is approved, eAwards will generate a check that is mailed to the official Postal Service address provided when the award request was entered.

The recommending official is responsible for obtaining or purchasing locally any cash equivalents, noncash tangible merchandise items, and gift certificates to be used as recognition. Purchasing must be done in accordance with established Postal Service and local policies.

Noncash tangible awards, valued at $100 or more, and all cash equivalent and gift certificate awards must be reported in eAwards as income received so that:

  1. Appropriate payroll deductions can be made from the recipient’s normal pay, and
  2. The award amount may be grossed up, if necessary.

The reporting of these items in eAwards should occur in the same pay period the award is presented to the recipient. Reporting must take place in the same calendar year to avoid tax reporting discrepancies.

495.3 Noncareer Gift Certificate

495.31 Purpose

The purpose of the Noncareer Gift Certificate Award is to provide immediate recognition for a specific action or achievement beyond the normal work requirements of a noncareer employee. It is not to be used as an incentive for achievement of pre-established goals or objectives. The Noncareer Gift Certificate Award may be used to recognize a wide range of performance or actions.

495.32 Description

A Noncareer Gift Certificate Award consists of a gift certificate not greater than $100 in value purchased locally in accordance with Postal Service and local purchasing rules and regulations. Eligible employees may receive up to $500 in gift certificate awards in a fiscal year.

The Noncareer Gift Certificate Award, regardless of dollar value, is considered taxable income. Noncareer Gift Certificates valued at $50 or more are grossed up for tax purposes. (See 491.34 for more information on the tax impact of awards and grossing up for tax purposes.)

A Noncareer Gift Certificate Award may be presented along with a letter of appreciation on official Postal Service letterhead in an official service award folder.

495.33 Eligibility

All noncareer Postal Service employees are eligible to receive Noncareer Gift Certificate Awards. Eligibility for the Noncareer Gift Certificate Award is without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or presence of physical or mental disability. In addition:

  1. The Noncareer Gift Certificate Award is the only formal award that noncareer employees are eligible to receive.
  2. Contractors are not eligible to receive any type of formal award.
495.34 Basis

The basis for presenting a Noncareer Gift Certificate Award is an employee contribution (sustained performance, achievement, invention, special act, or service) that exceeds usual work requirements.

495.35 Approval Authority
495.351 Headquarters and Headquarters-Related Field Units

Officers, PCES executives, and designated managers EAS-22 and above may approve Noncareer Gift Certificate Awards for eligible Headquarters and Headquarters-related field unit employees.

495.352 Areas

Area vice presidents, area managers, and their designees EAS-22 and above may approve Noncareer Gift Certificate Awards for eligible employees, in accordance with Postal Service and area office policy.

495.353 Field

District managers, senior plant managers, postmasters, and other managers EAS-22 and above may approve Noncareer Gift Certificate Awards for eligible employees under their jurisdiction in accordance with Postal Service and local guidelines for employee recognition.

495.36 Recommending an Award

The recommendation for a Noncareer Gift Certificate Award is initiated in eAwards by the immediate supervisor, postmaster, or management official with knowledge of the employee or group contribution. The recommendation should be initiated promptly, but no later than 1 year after the date of the achievement, act, or period covering the performance.

Note: The nominee should not be advised of the recommendation in advance of its approval.

495.37 Evaluating and Approving the Award

The approving official evaluates the recommendation, decides if an award is warranted, and approves recognition in eAwards.

When, in the opinion of the approving official, the accomplishment fails to meet the outlined criteria for Noncareer Gift Certificate Awards recognition or if the award amount needs to be modified, the award submission is returned to the recommender via eAwards, with comments as to why it is being returned and any further handling instructions.

495.38 Processing

The recommending official is responsible for purchasing gift certificates to be used as recognition. Purchasing must be done in accordance with established Postal Service and local policies.

All Noncareer Gift Certificate Awards are reported in eAwards as income received so that the appropriate payroll deductions can be made from the recipient’s pay. The reporting of these items in eAwards should occur in the same pay period the award is presented to the recipient. Reporting must take place in the same calendar year to avoid tax reporting discrepancies.

495.4 Quality Step Increase Award

495.41 Description

The Quality Step Increase (QSI) is an increase in basic pay that recognizes sustained high-quality performance. The total dollar benefit usually exceeds that of a one-time cash award and is granted only when the level of performance is likely to continue.

495.42 Eligibility

All career bargaining unit employees not already at the top step for their pay grade are eligible to receive the QSI. An employee cannot receive more than one QSI in any 52-week period. Eligibility for the QSI is without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, or presence of physical or mental disability.

495.43 Basis

High-quality performance can be determined only after a thorough review of position requirements, duties, and responsibilities. Consideration must be given to the quality and quantity of work, demonstrated professional and technical knowledge, manual skills, and other evidence of superior competence. Performance criteria include one or more of the following:

  1. The most important function of the job is being performed in a manner that substantially exceeds normal requirements.
  2. Another function of the job is being performed in a manner that is better than satisfactory.
  3. A specific job was sustained at a high level during the preceding year and gives promise of continuing.
495.44 Comparisons
495.441 Comparison to Regular Within–Grade Increases

A QSI requires exceptional authorization by management and is always in addition to regular pay adjustments (such as general increases, cost of living adjustments, and/or regular within-grade increases) required by the labor contracts. Any employee below the highest step is eligible to receive a QSI.

A bargaining unit employee cannot receive more than one QSI in any 52-week period (see 495.42). An employee who receives a QSI may advance by one or two steps, as determined by the procedure described below. The QSI may also change the due date for advancement to the next higher step.

The step and next step date for the QSI action are determined as follows:

  1. If the number of weeks served before the QSI is greater than the number of weeks that would be required to progress from the QSI step to the next step, the employee is advanced two steps as the result of the QSI. The next step date is then set to allow for a complete waiting period following the QSI.

Example: Before the QSI, Employee A completed 38 weeks in step I in RSC M. The labor contract requires 34 weeks to progress from step J to K. Because the time served in step I is greater than the time required to progress from step J to K, Employee A is given an additional step and placed directly into step K as the result of the QSI. He then must wait the full contractual period (34 weeks) before he reaches the next step, step L.

  1. If the number of weeks served before the QSI is less than or equal to the number of weeks required to progress from the QSI step to the next step, the employee is advanced only a single step. The next step date is then determined by subtracting the waiting period weeks required by the labor contract to progress from the QSI step to the next step by the weeks already served before the QSI.

Example: Before the QSI, Employee B completed 22 weeks in step I in RSC M. The labor contract requires 34 weeks to progress from step J to step K. Because the time served in step I is less than the time required to progress from step J to K, Employee B is advanced just a single step, to step J, as the result of the QSI. The next step is determined by taking the waiting period required between steps J and K (34 weeks) and subtracting from it the weeks served in step I before the QSI (22 weeks). The next step, to step K, occurs 12 weeks after the QSI (34 weeks 22 weeks = 12 weeks).

495.442 Comparison to Spot Awards

The standards for a QSI and a Spot Award are similar. Employee performance is evaluated according to the conditions required under both awards to see which award is more appropriate (see 495.24). The primary difference is that the QSI changes the employee’s base salary, while the Spot Award is a one-time, lump-sum, cash award. The Spot Award may be preferable when (a) the employee is at the top of the grade or (b) group recognition is desired.

495.45 Approval Authority
495.451 Headquarters and Headquarters–Related Field Units

Officers, PCES executives, and designated managers EAS-22 and above may approve QSIs for eligible Headquarters bargaining unit employees.

495.452 Areas, Districts, and Plants

Area vice presidents, district managers, senior plant managers, postmasters, and other managers EAS-22 and above may approve QSIs for eligible employees under their jurisdiction in accordance with Postal Service and local guidelines for employee recognition.

495.46 Recommending an Award

Normally, the employee’s supervisor initiates the recommendation for a QSI; however, such recommendations may be initiated by others with the concurrence of the employee’s immediate supervisor or manager.

495.47 Initiating Documentation

The official who is recommending the QSI award initiates the request by completing PS Form 1727, Award Recommendation/Authorization (Quality Step Increase), and submitting it to the appropriate manager for approval.

495.48 Initiating a Personnel Action

When the award is approved, the recommending official forwards PS Form 1727 to the Human Resources Shared Service Center (HRSSC) for completion of PS Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action, via the address below:

HRSSC
BENEFITS & COMPENSATION
PO BOX 970400
GREENSBORO NC 27497-0400

The personnel action is effective the first day of the first pay period beginning on or after the completion of the PS Form 50 by the HRSSC.