Fedweek

OPM has issued new guidance addressing telework, bargaining and other issues for agency operating plans in greater detail as uncertainty continues regarding the timing of potential changes to those policies.

The guidance, in the form of a lengthy question and answer document, was sent to agencies last Friday (July 23), days after a deadline set by an earlier requirement for agencies to submit “reentry” and “post-reentry” plans to OMB for review.

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Like the prior guidance, the new guidance contains an assumption that telework rates will be higher that those before the pandemic while also stressing that the decision ultimately is a matter for management’s judgment.

It says, “In light of the steps agencies undertook at the outset of the pandemic, OPM expects that many more federal employees will be eligible to telework on a regular basis post-reentry . . . agencies can, where appropriate, deploy personnel policies such as telework and remote work effectively and efficiently as strategic management tools for attracting, retaining, and engaging talent to advance agency missions.”

The new guidance does not directly address timing but several agencies have told employees to expect changes to begin in the September-October timeframe. Even after OMB approval, in many cases implementation likely would take weeks or months in any event due to requirements that agencies meet bargaining obligations and give employees advance notice of changes to their work patterns. Also, the recent surge in infections, hospitalizations and deaths may cause a delay.

The House is set to vote this week on a bill (HR-978) requiring agencies produce and publicly post workplace safety plans meeting certain safety standards, with a requirement for 30 days of notice before reopening any closed office. A counterpart (S-2343) recently was offered in the Senate.

Meanwhile, though, pressure continues from Capitol Hill, mainly from Republicans, to return more employees to their regular duty stations.

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