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OPM Preparing for Possibility of Furloughs

by Ian Smith |

The latest word from Washington is that talks have stalled in negotiations on the “fiscal cliff.” A consequence of nothing further happening in the negotiations is that many federal employees could find themselves furloughed at some point in the new year.

OPM is apparently preparing for this possibility and has posted HR guidance for agencies and employees on its web site.

A few highlights from the document:

Which employees may be affected by an administrative furlough?

A. Agencies are responsible for identifying the employees affected by administrative furloughs based on budget conditions, funding sources, mission priorities (including the need to perform emergency work involving the safety of human life or protection of property), and other factors. See also Procedures and Labor Management Relations Implications.

How will employees be notified whether they are affected by an administrative furlough?

A. Each agency will determine the method and timing of notifying employees of whether they are affected by an administrative furlough. See also Procedures and Labor Management Relations Implications.

May employees take other jobs during a period designated as furlough time off?

A. While on furlough time off, an individual remains an employee of the Federal Government. Therefore, executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct and rules regarding outside employment continue to apply when an individual is furloughed (specifically, the executive branch-wide standards of ethical conduct (the standards), at 5 CFR part 2635). In addition, there are specific statutes that prohibit certain outside activities, and agency-specific supplemental rules that require prior approval of, and sometimes prohibit, outside employment. Therefore, before engaging in outside employment, an employee should review these regulations and then consult his or her agency ethics official to learn if there are any agency-specific supplemental rules governing the employee.

Also, employees are not allowed to work for free by donating their time during a furlough: “Unless otherwise authorized by law, an agency may not accept the voluntary services of an employee.”

See the full document for more information: Guidance for Administrative Furloughs, December 2012

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