The IRS has announced what amounts to the first large-scale recall to regular worksites of employees who have been away due to the pandemic, ordering back as many as 11,000 employees effective June 1 to facilities in Texas, Utah and Kentucky, three of the states with the most open policies.
The employees being recalled have been on weather and safety leave or other forms of leave because their jobs do not allow for telework; according to the NTEU union, about 9,000 more employees in those states have been teleworking and will continue to do so.
The IRS has been out front among agencies in bringing back employees, starting with a request several weeks ago for some 10,000 employees to return voluntarily. Even though the agency offered financial incentives, the results were mixed, with reportedly only about a third that many actually returning.
Also, although the agency was able to provide special cleaning services and personal protective equipment, and rearranged work areas to allow for social distancing, there have been several reported instances of offices having to be emptied out again after a worker either tested positive for the Coronavirus or had been exposed to a person who did.
“The IRS has also informed us that employees are being called back in reverse order of seniority and that those with existing health conditions that put them at high risk will be allowed to continue to remain at home on weather and safety leave,” NTEU said, adding that the experience with the voluntary callback shows that employees remain anxious about returning.
Another issue involves employees who have childcare responsibilities because day care centers or schools are closed. “IRS has indicated that employees with small children must use their personal leave if unable to report. NTEU believes that the IRS should do more to provide options for these employees. They should not be forced to use their personal leave because of circumstances that are beyond their control,” the union said.