New workplace planning guidance from the Biden Administration stresses in several places that agencies must “satisfy any applicable collective bargaining obligations, and provide ample notice to any affected employees,” before making changes.

The joint OMB-OPM-GSA memo notes President Biden’s executive order stating that it is the policy of the government to “encourage union organizing and collective bargaining.” It does not specify issues over which agencies must bargain nor what form bargaining should take; formal negotiations for example might be drawn out over weeks.

“Labor relations obligations may be addressed issue by issue for aspects of the agency’s overall plan for reentry and post-reentry. For example, an early issue to surface to employee representatives may be the agency’s plan for ample notice to employees. Also, for example, an agency may decide to engage with employee representatives on aspects of its post-reentry personnel policies separate from labor relations engagement on the updating of the agency’s COVID-19 workplace safety plan,” it says.

After that, employees who will be returning to the physical workplace or who will have altered work schedules should be given advance notice; the length can “vary based on the effect of the change on particular employees” but normally would be at least 30 days.

“Federal employees continue to balance child care, elder care, and other responsibilities while doing their part to deliver exceptional service to the American people,” it says. “Employees will need ample time to address these arrangements and other considerations such as transportation as they plan to reenter the physical workplace, start new schedules, or otherwise adjust to new work environments, at the same time that regular child care, elder care, other dependent care, and regular transportation options may remain unavailable or complicated as a result of COVID-19.”

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Federal Manager’s Handbook, 6th Ed.

2022 Federal Employees Handbook