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OPM’s latest federal workplace “reentry” guidance for the first time provides a detailed list of the topics that may be subject to bargaining before they can be carried out, negotiations that would last an undefined amount of time.

“Since many employees have been on maximum telework status for an extended period of time and agencies have made adjustments to many workplace policies, procedures, and practices for safety reasons, any direction to return to the worksite will likely result in changes to conditions of employment that must be negotiated with relevant Federal employee unions. An agency should provide notice to the union(s) and a reasonable opportunity to bargain over these changes,” it says.


Earlier guidance also had said that agencies would have to fulfill those obligations where unions have bargaining units but had not listed the range of potential topics.

The latest guidance does, listing “some examples” of them as (in its words):

– How much advance notice will employees be provided before they are required to return to the office?

– How will any decision to return to the office be communicated to the workforce?

– What safety measures will be established to help protect the workforce when returning to the work location and how will they be implemented?

– What options are available to employees who are telework eligible and otherwise interested in continuing to telework on a greater basis?

– Will the agency be able to provide assistance to employees on dependent care issues?


– What transit subsidies or parking benefits will be available to employees directed to return to agency worksites?

– What steps will the agency take to enforce new safety requirements?

Unions also might raise other topics, it adds, such as “how many or the types of employees to assign work on specific work assignments or during a particular work shift” and the “particular type of technology to assist employees in accomplishment or performance of their work.”

Agencies are to “bargain over these subjects in good faith with the objective of reaching an agreement or request assistance of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service and Federal Service Impasses Panel to resolve the impasse.”

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook