If you work for the government, the SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action is one of the most important forms you’ll encounter during your tenure. The form provides annual documentation of your federal work history, including any big changes such as reassignments, promotions and terminations. There is a lot of information that needs to be included on this form, and it’s imperative to make sure to fill out the SF-50 form correctly so that you get the benefits to which you’re entitled.
Information Needed on an SF-50
An SF-50 contains in-depth information on your personnel history with the federal government. It is often used to make employment, pay and other decisions about your career, which is why it’s important to ensure that it is correctly filled out.
In addition to personal information, such as your Social Security number and date of birth, the form must include the relevant personnel action for which the form is required, such as an appointment, reassignment or promotion. Both a description of the personnel action and the government code for that action are needed. More than one personnel action can be included on one SF-50.
If you are transferring positions within the government, the SF-50 form instructions state that this form must contain information about where you are transferring from and to. It needs to list your current employment information, such as position title, salary, pay grade and bonuses, as well as the name and address of the government organization or department. The same information must be listed for your new position.
The SF-50 must also include information on your government life insurance policy and your retirement plan. If you are retiring, your final day of work must be noted, as this will affect your benefits.
Where to Get an SF-50
The person who fills out an SF-50 for you is typically a department supervisor. She gets the information from your personnel records or prior SF-50s filled out on your behalf.
To get a copy of your SF-50 when you are a current federal employee, you can make a request to your human resources office. If you ceased working for the government within the past four months, you can make a request to the last federal office for which you were employed. If you stopped working for the federal government longer than four months ago, you must make a request through the National Personnel Records Center.
Any requests for an SF-50 must be made in writing and include the reason why you need a copy of your SF-50. You can fax or mail your request.
Finding an Error on Your SF-50
Once you receive a copy of your SF-50, it’s important that you carefully review the form to ensure that all of the information contained on it is accurate. Failing to do so can cost you a raise, promotion or benefits.
If you find an error on an SF-50, you must process a correction through the Office of Personnel Management. If you find an error that appears on more than one of your SF-50 forms, you can either submit a correction for each incorrect form or just one for the most recent form with the error. If these errors are also reflected in your official personnel folder, they should be updated there as well.
It’s best to review an SF-50 as soon as you get it in order to make any necessary changes. You don’t want to risk forgetting and having it impact you years down the line.
Be sure to get a copy of any updated SF-50s and have them sent to any agencies that may have an incorrect form. That way you make sure all federal agencies for which you’ve worked have the most accurate version of your personnel records.
Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.