Telework Bill for Federal Agencies Passed By Congress

The “Telework Enhancement Act of 2010” has been passed by Congress and sent to the President for signature. The bill is designed to increase the amount of telework performed by federal employees and establishes requirements for agencies in implementing telework throughout most of the federal government.

The House passed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 on November 18th.  The Senate passed its version of the bill on Sept. 29, and the legislation now goes to President Obama for signature. He is expected to sign the bill into law.

The purpose of the bill is to improve and expand teleworking in executive agencies by requiring each executive agency to establish a policy under which eligible agency employees may be authorized to telework; determine employee eligibility to participate in telework; and notify all employees of their eligibility to telework.

Currently about 5 percent of the federal workforce uses telework to some extent. The bill is projected to cost about $28 million to implement over a five year period. Supporters of the bill dispute that contending it will save money and improve agency productivity and efficiency.

The bill requires that an agency use telework provisions to the maximum extent possible; and without diminishing employee performance or agency operations.

The bill also notes that it does not require an agency to authorize teleworking in the case of an employee:

  • if the performance of that employee does not comply with the terms of the written agreement between the agency manager and that employee;
  • in emergency situations as determined by the head of an agency
  • when an employee’s official duties require on a daily basis direct handling of secure materials determined to be inappropriate for telework by the agency head; or
  • on-site activity that cannot be handled remotely or at an alternate worksite.

Some employees will not be authorized to use the telework option under the bill. The bill states that an employee may not telework under a policy established under this section if:

  • the employee has been officially disciplined for being absent without permission for more than 5 days in any calendar year; or
  • the employee has been officially disciplined for violations for viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography, including child pornography, on a Federal Government computer or while performing official Federal Government duties. 

Agencies will also find new reporting requirements when the bill is passed into law.

OPM will be required to submit a report each year. In order to do this, agencies will be required to show the degree of participation by employees in each executive agency in teleworking, the degree of participation in each bureau, division, or other major administrative unit of that agency), including the total number of employees in the agency; the number and percent of employees in the agency who are eligible to telework; and the number and percent of eligible employees in the agency who are teleworking.

There will certainly be plenty of room in the new bill for bargaining agreements to be negotiated between agency and federal employee unions and, no doubt, areas for potential agreements regarding the implementation of the bill for individuals when the bill becomes law.

You can review the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 in its entirety.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47