Fedweek

Permissible telework arrangements include a flexible schedule that permits an employee to complete a full workday while completing dependent care responsibilities. Image: monticello/Shutterstock.com

DoD has updated its policies on telework for the first time since 2012, making changes to reflect the government’s experience with telework during that time, in particular in the four years since the Coronavirus pandemic broke out.

For example, unlike the prior version, the directive specifies that “remote” work—which has grown substantially since 2020—is distinct from telework and sets specific policies regarding it. However, other than specifying that a teleworker is expected to be onsite at least two days a pay period and a remote worker is not, it leaves the frequency of telework to be decided according to mission needs.

Like the prior version, it says that telework is valuable to the department—the government’s largest employer—for purposes such as emergency situations, to help create employment and return-to-work opportunities for veterans, people with disabilities, and spouses of Service members and employees being relocated.

However, it goes beyond that in adding that telework also has value to: “retain valuable employees with hard-to-replace, mission essential skills; promote career continuity for employees who are military spouses and relocating due to assignment of Service member spouses; recruit employees with specialized skills for hard-to-fill vacancies; reduce costs associated with filling vacancies; reduce costs associated with training; achieve real property and other business cost reductions; and increase work-life balance, resulting in increased morale.”

The new guidance also reflects softened policies government-wide regarding having a dependent with care needs at a telework location, saying such a person may be present so long as the teleworking employee is not providing such care at the same time.

“Permissible telework arrangements may include authorizing an employee to telework while another individual provides dependent care, to take intermittent paid or unpaid leave to fulfill dependent care responsibilities during the workday, and to work a flexible schedule that permits an employee to complete a full workday while completing dependent care responsibilities,” it says.

The policy also addresses “weather and safety leave” authority enacted into law since the prior update, following government-wide policy that in general teleworkers are not eligible for that paid leave unless the same circumstances that caused the office closing also apply to the telework site.

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