The latest guidance from OPM on agency operational plans addresses several issues related to performance and conduct by employees on telework or remote work.
Like those working onsite, it says, employees working off-site “are held accountable for their performance against applicable performance standards. Managing performance of teleworking or remote employees may require the supervisor to rethink and expand techniques for observing and evaluating work in progress.”
“Under most circumstances, poor performance would result in suspension or termination of a telework agreement” and putting the employee on a performance improvement plan, it says.
In the case of remote work—where employees are not required to regularly report to a worksite, in contrast to telework, where they are—there may not be a government site to which the employee can report. “In such a case, an agency may determine that an employee is a better candidate for a PIP that can be done remotely at the alternative worksite versus requiring the struggling employee to work onsite via a management-directed reassignment,” it says.
It adds that management should be aware that many employees “will face challenges” if reentry plans require them to return to working onsite after working largely or fully off-site. Management may refer employees to employee assistance programs and “should determine if other options are appropriate, such as allowing employees to continue telework, on a temporary basis, or request personal leave (e.g., annual leave, sick leave if applicable, or leave without pay).”
However, it reminds agencies that they “may direct employees to return to the official worksite consistent with Executive Branch policy regarding return to the workplace and agency COVID-19 workplace safety plans.”
“If an employee fails to report for duty without an administratively acceptable reason for their absence, the employee could be considered absent without leave and be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including removal from federal service. The agency makes the determination as to whether the employee has an administratively acceptable reason for their absence,” it says.