The Office of Personnel Management has issued a list of frequently asked questions for federal agencies to assist them with transitioning the work life of federal employees’ in a post-COVID era.
OPM noted that it was providing the guidance to coincide with the recent guidance from the White House Office of Management and Budget which helps plan for a safe return of federal employees to work in their office environments.
The list of FAQs from OPM cover “telework, remote work, and other human resources policies related to reentry and a fact sheet providing guidance and example scenarios for determining official worksites, location-based pay entitlements, and travel benefits for employees under telework and remote work arrangements.”
Some of the more interesting takeaways from the document:
- OPM expects more federal employees to telecommute going forward
- Telework and remote work are not entitlements of employment. Telework can also be revoked, such as if the remote work is negatively impacting an employee’s performance or the performance of the work group/organization.
- Federal employees cannot be required to telework. With respect to catastrophic events such as the recent pandemic in which federal employees ended up having to work remotely, OPM says about such events, “Because these are not incident to the normal agency telework programs, we do not generally refer to these practices as ‘telework’ within the meaning of the Telework Enhancement Act.”
Remote Work vs. Telework
OPM’s guidance also differentiates between remote work and telework:
Telework refers to arrangements where the employee is expected to report to work both at an agency worksite and alternative worksite on a regular and recurring basis each pay period. Remote work does not involve an expectation that the employee regularly reports to the agency worksite each pay period.
As such, some of the expectations and requirements around each vary.
Whether or not a federal employee is conducting remote work or telework can have an impact on his or her locality pay rate for employees under the General Schedule. OPM said that an employee’s official worksite for his or her telework agreement is the location of the agency worksite for the employee’s position, provided that “the employee is scheduled to report physically at least twice each biweekly pay period on a regular and recurring basis to that agency worksite.”
However, for remote employees, the official worksite is the employee’s home or other worksite.
The complete list of FAQs is included below.