Federal agencies have begun revising their policies on recalling employees from telework and other pandemic-related issues in light of the recent executive order and OMB guidance setting tougher safety standards for federal workplaces.
Among those agencies is the OPM, which for example said that for its own employees, “every effort will be made to maximize eligible employees’ use of approved telework” as long as community transmission of the Coronavirus is continuing. It also states that teleworkers who are working off-site more than normal—which would be the large majority—”will be given thirty days advanced notice before they are required to return to work on-site at OPM duty locations.”
Similarly, the new EPA policy says that while that agency originally “encouraged employees to maximize telework to the extent possible . . . it is now the agency posture to maximize the use of telework and remote work during widespread community transmission” and that employees will be given at least two weeks’ notice before being recalled to their regular workplace.
The agency-specific guidance in general also reflects the new stricter policies regarding the wearing of masks and social distancing in the federal workplace as well as a new general policy of limiting building occupancy to no more than 25 percent of capacity. The Justice Department policy goes further, saying that “Importantly, this percentage is a ceiling, not a floor – if your component can operate at 5% occupancy in its workplace, for example, that is your appropriate operating level.”
They also note that the CDC is developing a testing plan for the federal workforce, which will then be reviewed by the White House covid response office before being applied. For the meantime, they say that employees who believe they may have been exposed should notify their supervisors and consider getting tested prior to returning to their regular worksites.