OMB has further encouraged agencies to increase their use of telework as a response to the spread of the Coronavirus, in particular for employees with conditions on two CDC lists of those especially vulnerable.
One list, of those deemed as being at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19, includes for example those with chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or compromised immune systems. Agencies are to give the same consideration to those on a separate list of “special populations,” including pregnant women. Those lists are here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/index.html
In both cases, “Agencies do not need to require certification by a medical professional, and may accept self-identification by employees that they are in one of these populations,” says the memo, dated Thursday and released Friday morning.
For such employees who are not telework-eligible, agencies may grant weather and safety leave, it adds. That leave applies to conditions that prevent an employee or group of employees from safely traveling to or performing work at an approved location, it says, and “because COVID-19 prevents employees who are at higher risk from safely travelling to or performing work at an approved location, agencies may grant these employees safety leave at the agencies’ discretion.”
“Additionally, agencies are encouraged to consult with local public health officials and the CDC about whether to extend telework flexibilities more broadly to all eligible teleworkers in areas in which either such local officials or the CDC have determined there is community spread. Agencies are also encouraged to extend telework flexibilities more broadly to accommodate state and local responses to the outbreak, including, but not limited to, school closures,” it says.
Prior guidance from OPM had also encouraged more use of telework but the OMB memo is the strongest such message to date.