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SES Probationary Period

An individual's initial appointment as an SES career appointee becomes final only after the individual has served a 1-year probationary period as a career appointee. That employee’s rating official must perform an assessment of the new SES’s performance during the probationary period. After the one year the selecting official must certify that the appointee performed at the level of excellence expected of a senior executive during the probationary period.

When a career appointee's executive qualification have been certified by a Qualifications Review Board on the basis of special or unique qualities, as described in Sec. 317.502(c), the probationary assessment must address any executive development activities the agency identified in support of the request for QRB certification.

The probationary period begins on the effective date of the personnel action initially appointing the individual to the SES as a career appointee and ends one calendar year later.

The following conditions apply to crediting service towards completion of the probationary period:

  • Time on leave with pay while in an SES position is credited. Earned leave for which the employee is compensated by lump-sum payment upon separation is not credited.
  • Time in a nonpay status while in an SES position is credited up to a total of 30 calendar days (or 22 workdays). After 30 calendar days, the probationary period is extended by adding to it time equal to that served in a nonpay status.
  • Time absent on military duty or due to compensable injury is credited upon restoration to the SES when no other break in SES service has occurred.
  • Time following transfer to an SES position in another agency is credited, i.e., the individual does not have to start a new probationary period.
  • Removal of a career appointee during the probationary period is covered by subpart D of part 359 of this chapter.
  •  A career appointee who resigns or is removed from the SES before completion of the probationary period may not receive another SES career appointment unless selected under SES merit staffing procedures. The individual, however, need not be recertified by a QRB unless the individual was removed for performance or disciplinary reasons.
  •  An individual who separated from the SES during the probationary period and who has been out of the SES more than 30 calendar days must serve a new 1-year probationary period upon reappointment and may not credit previous time in a probationary period.

However, there are exceptions in which the individual is only required to complete the remainder of the previously served probationary period, see below:

  • The individual left the SES without a break in service for a Presidential appointment and is exercising reinstatement rights under 5 U.S.C. 3593(b).
  • The individual left the SES without a break in service for other civilian employment that provides a statutory or regulatory reemployment right to the SES when no other break in service occurred.
  • The break in SES service was the result of military duty or compensable injury, and the time credited (see paragraph (c)(3)) of this section) was not sufficient to complete the probationary period.

As a new career SES appointee your responsibilites during your initial probationary period inlcude:

  • Identifying any professional/technical and/or managerial/executive training that you will need for successful performance and discussing your training needs with your supervisor.
  • Understanding your assigned duties and responsibilities and how they relate to the strategic and mission goals of the organization(s).
  • Performing the duties and responsibilities in an acceptable manner.
  • Recognizing when your performance may not meet acceptable standards and taking corrective action.
  •  Adhering to all Federal regulations governing conduct, fitness, suitability, and ethics.

Your supervisor responsibilities during your probationary period inlcudes:

  •  Follow through on agency initiated or QRB recommended training.
  • Observe the employee’s performance and conduct.
  • Hold periodic, documented discussions of progress with the employee, clearly outlining the strengths and weaknesses of the employee in relation to the position’s performance requirements.
  • Complete a probationary assessment of the individual’s performance before the probationary period ends. 
  • Certify that the appointee performed at the level of excellence expected of a senior executive during the probationary period or, if it becomes apparent after full and fair consideration that the employee’s performance is not suitable for satisfactory executive work, initiate action to remove the employee from the SES.  An employee’s probationary period may not be extended beyond 1 year solely for the purpose of providing the employee an opportunity to improve performance.  Note that an agency’s failure to meet its regulatory obligation to timely certify a probationer’s performance does not prevent the probationary period from ending.