Fedweek

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While higher levels of offsite work due to the pandemic have proven “successful,” “neither telework nor remote work are entitlements” for employees, says newly issued DoD guidance on returning more employees, and for more days, to their regular worksites.

The guidance says that both telework—where the employee is expected to report to an agency duty station at least twice biweekly—and remote work—where there is no such expectation—”remain strategic management tools to facilitate the accomplishment of work, while balancing the needs of the workforce. However, Components may leverage experiences with expanded telework during the pandemic to incorporate these tools as a routine way of meeting organizational and mission needs.”

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While the guidance applies only at DoD, it is the government’s largest employer. The document from the central personnel policy office is largely in question and answer format with one question being: “Full-time telework has been successful for over two years, do employees have to return to the workplace?”

Its answer: “While telework may have been performed successfully throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, telework is a work flexibility arrangement that requires consultation and approval by a supervisor. Absent extenuating circumstances, employees whose installations or facilities have initiated reentry will be required to return to the workplace as directed.”

It says that employees who still have not “reentered” the regular worksite on more than a minimal basis generally will be given 30 days of advance notice of new working schedules but that for the meantime, “temporarily ordering an employee to report to an office location for mission requirements remains the prerogative of the supervisor.”

Other points include that:

* Temporary authority allowing employees to work offsite with dependents present currently expires September 30 and until that time “employees will still need to account for work and non-work hours” and must take leave for time spent away from their duties due to care responsibilities.

* “Components should review telework and remote work eligibility for positions previously identified as not eligible, but were allowed to telework during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

* For teleworking employees, management may waive the requirement to report onsite at least twice biweekly for reasons including recovery from an injury or medical condition; emergency situations preventing an employee from regularly commuting to the regular worksite; paid leave or other approved absence; travel or detail to another location.

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It adds that any need to grant employees “weather and safety leave”—a form of paid excused absence—“has been greatly diminished as DoD has made investments in technology and fully utilized available human resources flexibilities. Therefore, Components should limit the use of weather and safety leave to scenarios where such tools are not practicable or effective.”

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2022 Federal Employees Handbook