Options for Teleworking Federal Employees with Caregiving Needs

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By on March 31, 2020 in Human Resources with 0 Comments
Young mother conducting telework at her home as she talks on the phone in front of a laptop computer while holding her baby

The Office of Personnel Management has published new guidance with options that federal agencies can provide to federal employees who are teleworking during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic but who also have caregiving responsibilities to consider.

The memo is published on OPM’s website: Options For Telework-Eligible Employees With Caregiving Responsibilities

OPM has also set up a special section on its website with information related to the coronavirus that is updated as new information becomes available.

OPM’s new guidance outlines discusses the following available options with respect to how they can or cannot be utilized to assist federal employees with their caregiving needs while teleworking:

Flexible Work Schedules

This option gives federal employees the ability to determine their own work schedules while still completing the 80 hour biweekly work requirements.

OPM says the FWS consists of core hours, which are the designated period of the day when employees must be present for work, and flexible hours, which are the part of the workday when employees may (within limits or “bands”) choose their time of arrival and departure and break periods (i.e., work starting and stopping times).

Excused Absences/Administrative Leave

OPM notes that agencies have broad management authority to grant excused absences with pay, but that it should be used to grant paid time off for extended periods to address the caregiver issue.

Evacuation Pay Authority

OPM said that this option applies to the current situation with the coronavirus, noting, “When an employee is evacuated to his or her home in a pandemic situation, the Administration expects agencies to maximize the performance of telework to support agency missions.  At the same time, it may be appropriate to grant limited amounts of excused absence in certain circumstances.”

OPM provided the greatest amount of detail about this option in its guidance, including factors and circumstances under which agencies should consider use of this option.

What About Weather and Safety Leave?

One option OPM specifically said in the guidance that is generally not available to teleworking federal employees is weather and safety leave.

“As OPM explained in its February 7, 2020 guidance, use of weather and safety leave is generally not appropriate for such employees, since they are not prevented from safely working at home,” wrote OPM.

Federal employees who have questions about their work schedule options should consult with their individual human resources offices for guidance.

© 2020 Ian Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ian Smith.

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About the Author

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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