The Office of Personnel Management recently updated its polices and procedures for dismissing federal employees for situations such as weather or other emergency situations. As OPM defines it, “The inability to safely travel to an approved work location may result in ‘closure’ of a Federal office (i.e., closed to the public and non-emergency employees) for the full day or authorization of a delayed arrival.”
Weather and Safety Leave
The Administrative Leave Act of 2016 created a new type of leave called “weather and safety leave” which was previously granted as administrative leave or excused absence. OPM issued final regulations on this new leave type in April 2018. The updated closure and dismissal procedures outline when and how this leave type can be utilized.
The use of telework is stressed under the new weather and safety leave type. OPM encourages agencies to make use of telework as much as possible during these types of situations to ensure continuity of government operations. OPM says that agencies should review their telework agreements to ensure they are in place in advance of any closure or dismissal situations that arise unexpectedly.
OPM said that agencies will not be able to provide weather and safety leave to a telework program participant who is not prevented from working safely at an approved telework site during severe weather or other emergency situations. Generally, employees who are telework program participants will not receive weather and safety leave, since they are not usually prevented from performing work at an approved location due to a weather or other safety-related emergency.
There are some exceptions, however, such as unexpected weather or unsafe telework sites.
OPM last updated its dismissal and closure procedures in 2016. The new weather and safety leave regulations represents a policy shift from this previous guidance. OPM describes the change as follows:
Previously, OPM guidance stated that only those employees with telework agreements containing express language requiring them to work during a closure situation could be denied administrative leave. Under OPM’s weather and safety leave regulations, all telework program participants will be ineligible for weather and safety leave when a closure is announced except in rare circumstances when one of the exceptions under 5 CFR 630.1605(a)(2) applies (discussed in section II.A below). Employees participating in a telework program must telework, take other leave (paid or unpaid) or paid time off (as approved by the agency), or a combination of both, unless an exception applies.
OPM’s revised guidance also covers other topics such as how weather and safety leave applies to emergency vs. non-emergency employees and definitions and application of government operating status announcements.
The document with the revised dismissal closure procedures is included below.