As part of a revision of its policies on dismissing federal employees with pay due to severe weather or other emergencies, OPM stressed that the newly implemented weather and safety leave generally will not be available to those participating in telework—which includes not only those who telework regularly but also those who are approved to telework but only do so sporadically, and even if they haven’t done it in some time.
The new government-wide guidance on dismissing employees either before or during the workday replaces an earlier guide that specifically applied only in the national capital area but that was used as a model for decisions elsewhere. When employees are told to report to work late, not to report at all, or when they report and are sent home early, they generally will be entitled to weather and safety leave, which is a new form of paid time off without charge to any other form of leave and which replaces administrative leave, or excused absence, in that situation.
The prior guidance stated that employees with telework agreements would be denied what was then called administrative leave only if those agreements specifically made them ineligible. Under the new guidance, however, they will be ineligible unless certain limited exceptions apply.
Those exceptions include if working at an alternative worksite would itself be unsafe, or if a telework-ready employee could not have reasonably anticipated the severe weather or other emergency condition and therefore did not take home needed equipment or work (for example, not being able to work on a Monday because of unexpected conditions that arose after leaving work the previous Friday). Agencies also will have discretion to waive the restriction in some other circumstances.
In some situations, agencies may be open but allow employees to take their regular paid leave, such as annual leave, or to telework even though that leave or telework had not been previously scheduled. In those cases, employees “must have an appropriate amount of work to complete during the workday at home”—and if they don’t, they would have to take another form of leave for the hours not worked.
Employees who work remotely full-time also are generally ineligible for weather and safety leave, as are employees on preapproved time off. Also, those under flexible working schedules who had been scheduled to be off that day could not shift their day off “when, in the agency’s judgment, the change is being requested primarily for the purpose of allowing the employee to receive weather and safety leave on the previously scheduled FWS day off.”