With Hurricane Florence hitting the eastern coastline, OPM has sent guidance to agencies reminding them of personnel policies related to weather emergencies including what likely will be the first substantial use of “weather and safety leave” rules finalized in April.
Under those rules–which under a 2016 law replaced the former use of informal “administrative leave” in similar situations–an agency may grant paid time off “when it has determined that employees cannot safely travel to, or perform work at, their normal worksite, a telework site, or other approved location because of severe weather or another emergency situation,” a memo said.
Such leave is to generally be used in conjunction with an operating status announcement. That decision is made by OPM for the Washington, D.C. area, and typically by regional Federal Executive Boards elsewhere.
Said the memo, “It is important to note that, under the new statute and regulations, an agency normally will not be able to provide weather and safety leave to a telework program participant who is not prevented from working safely at an approved telework site during severe weather or other emergency situations. Generally, employees with the ability to telework will not receive weather and safety leave as they are not prevented from performing work at an approved location. This new provision will apply regardless of what is stated (or not stated) in the employee’s telework agreement and in agency policies and agreements,” within limited exceptions allowed in the rules.
“Agencies should continue to promote and incorporate telework into their agency emergency planning. We strongly encourage agencies to take steps to ensure that telework-ready employees are prepared to effectively telework and have access to agency IT systems and networks, as may be necessary, should an emergency or weather condition so warrant,” it added.
OPM also said that: agencies may authorize advance payments, continuation of pay, and payments for travel and subsistence expenses to employees who are ordered to evacuate from an area because of imminent danger; OPM may establish an emergency leave transfer program under which employees may donate annual leave to employees of the same or other agencies who are adversely affected, or have family members who are adversely affected; and that various hiring flexibilities are available for emergency response.