Reduction-In-Force (RIF)

A reduction-in-force (RIF) situation exists when the agency
releases a competitive employee from his/her competitive level by:

  1. Furlough for more than 30 days
  2. Separation, or
  3. Change to Lower Grade based on a reorganization or based on reclassification due to erosion of duties when the reclassification will take effect after an agency has formally announced a reduction in force in the competitive area and when the reduction in force will take effect within 180 days but NOT for changes to lower grade based on the reclassification of the job due to application of new classification standards or the correction of classification error.

Releasing the employee must be caused by:

  1. Lack of work,
  2. Shortage of funds,
  3. Insufficient personnel ceiling,
  4. Reorganization,
  5. The exercise of reemployment or restoration, or return rights,
  6. Reclassification of an employee's position due to
    erosion of duties under certain circumstances.

RIF procedures are required when both the action to be taken
and the cause of the action meet the criteria above.
There are almost always some unexpected and undesirable
outcomes from a RIF. Examples of these might include:

  • Temporary loss of organizational efficiency due to many
    people moving into new jobs at the same time,
  • Low employee morale, and
  • High one-time costs in unemployment compensation, lump-sum
    payments for accrued annual leave, and severance pay.

There are several ways for management to either reduce the
impact of a RIF or avoid the need to have a RIF. These include
management actions such as:

  • Offering Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (VSIP),
  • Offering Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA),
  • Hiring freezes,
  • Terminating temporary employees,
  • Short furloughs (30 days or less),
  • Reductions in work hours,
  • Retraining, or
  • Curtailing discretionary spending.

Agencies may also encourage employees to voluntarily request
leave-without-pay, request optional retirement, or change work
schedule and reduce their work hours.
In most cases RIF is initiated only after alternatives fail.
Once RIF becomes unavoidable, however, it is important to
understand that everyone in the organization can do something
to assure the process is carried out as fairly and smoothly as

  • (a) Supervisors should keep employees informed; must ensure
    position descriptions are accurate and annual performance
    ratings are accurate, current, and submitted on time;
    must support all actions taken as a part of the RIF and ensure
    RIF is initiated only for reasons specified by law.
  • (b) Employees need to inform their supervisors if
    position descriptions are not accurate. They also need to
    provide up-to-date information on their veterans preference,
    experience, and education. If the RIF is going to result in
    separations, employees must consider mobility for placement at
    other defense and/or Federal activities.

The Office of Personnel Management has published two handbooks which provide an in depth discussion of all aspects of the reduction in force and transfer of function process. One handbook provides Guidance, and the other describes Required Procedures. For definitive guidance on any aspect of reduction in force, see the OPM Handbooks.
Content last reviewed: 6/8/2006-ALM

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This page was last revised: 6/8/2006