Bill Would Maximize Telework for Federal Employees During Coronavirus Pandemic

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By on March 22, 2020 in Human Resources with 0 Comments
A man sits at a table in his kitchen conducting telework and talking on the phone and working in front of a laptop

Legislation just introduced in the Senate would maximize telework for federal employees during the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The Emergency Telework Act (S. 3561) is sponsored by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and has two co-sponsors as of the time of this writing: Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). It would require federal agencies to maximize telework opportunities for federal employees in light of the coronavirus situation.

Directives from the White House and the Office of Personnel Management have told federal agencies to utilize telework as much as possible, but there hasn’t been clear guidance, leaving many agencies struggling with how to implement teleworking policies.

The Senators hope their bill could fix that.

Specifically, the bill would do the following:

  • Allow all telework-eligible federal workers to telework full-time and evaluate whether non-telework-eligible employees can be telework-eligible during the current public COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
  • Require the Administration to continue those requirements if they determine that they would help reduce the risk of community spread of the virus and situation is extended. If not, the requirements still need to be applied for high-risk employees and in high-risk areas. 
  • Provide for an agency head to waive any of the above requirements for employees where there is a clear and compelling reason to do so. It sets a default for maximum telework but gives agencies flexibility for jobs that cannot be done remotely.
  • Require the Executive Branch to develop a plan to maximize telework in the event of a future public health emergency for an infectious disease.

Senator Lankford said in a statement about the bill, “This is common-sense legislation that is needed to ensure federal employees also have the ability to telework as the federal government is encouraging Americans to stay at home. If federal employees have the ability to serve Americans from home during this time it is right to allow them to do so.”

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Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.

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