GM 17-016

Department of Health and Human Services Issues Hiring Freeze Guidance

This Memorandum updates our General Memorandum 17-014 (February 3, 2017) on the Presidentially-ordered federal hiring freeze with information about the guidance issued this week by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) detailing the occupational exemptions that may be granted to the federal hiring freeze, including for the Indian Health Service (IHS).

On February 6, HHS Acting Deputy Secretary Colleen Barros signed a Memorandum (HHS Memorandum), which added welcome detail to the President’s January 23 hiring freeze order and the two subsequent guidance documents regarding the categories of HHS personnel to be exempted from the hiring freeze. We attach as one document the HHS Memorandum, the previous Office of Management and Budget/Office of Personnel Management (OMB/OPM) guidance of January 31, and the HHS listing of occupations exempt from the hiring freeze.

The OMB/OPM guidance of January 31 had, via reference to a 1981 OMB Memorandum, exempted from the freeze personnel undertaking “medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care” but with no further detail. The February 6 HHS Memorandum attached a list of 78 occupations which goes beyond direct medical care and includes critical support such as food service, housekeeping, medical records administration, security, and social services. The HHS Memorandum notes that it “specifically includes Indian Health Service Critical Hire appointments, which are temporary excepted service appointments under Schedule A, section 213.3102(i)(2).”

There are seven occupations which require pre-approval from HHS to ensure that the work is for “recruitment and placement activities directly related to public safety and national security” and they are also listed in the attached chart. The HHS Memorandum notes that the Commissioned Corps is in the exempted category (they had been listed as exempt in previous guidance as well). HHS also notes that “additional guidance for requesting further exemptions will be forthcoming.”

The HHS Memorandum should go a long way in helping IHS programs make plans during the duration of the hiring freeze. There is, at this time, no end point specified for the hiring freeze. The President’s Memorandum of January 31 provides that it would end upon implementation of a plan to reduce the size of the federal government’s workforce through attrition.

Please let us know if we may provide additional information regarding the hiring freeze.