Legislation introduced this week would continue to push telework to the maximum extent possible for the duration of the situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Introduced by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the Pandemic Federal Telework Act (S. 4518) would require federal agencies to allow all telework-eligible federal workers to telework full-time for the duration of the pandemic.
Additionally, the bill would do the following:
- Require federal agencies to evaluate whether non-telework-eligible employees can be made telework-eligible
- Allow agency heads to waive any of the above requirements for employees where there is a compelling reason to do so. This sets a default for maximum telework, but provides flexibility for jobs that cannot be done remotely
- Compel the Executive Branch to develop a plan to maximize telework in the event of a future public health emergency for an infectious disease
- Clarify that the Technology Modernization Fund may be used for technology-related modernization activities to facilitate telework
- Require that managers and supervisors, including political appointees, receive training on telework and management of a remote workforce, within 180 days of assuming a management or supervisory role over teleworking employees
The bill is being co-sponsored by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).
The same group of Senators previously introduced the Emergency Telework Act (S. 3561) which was similar in nature and would allow all eligible federal employees to telework during the pandemic. As of the time of this writing, it has not advanced.
If the results of our recent survey are any indication, FedSmith readers would likely support this bill. The clear majority of survey respondents said that they do not feel safe going back to work in an office environment and would prefer to continue working at home.