Issue Briefs

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Following is updated guidance from the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on pandemic-related leave and telework policies, including considerations for unvaccinated employees exposed to the Coronavirus.


Q: Will employees need to take sick leave while isolating because they have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a test result, or because they have probable or confirmed COVID-19?

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A: If an employee is isolating because they have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a test result, or because they have probable or confirmed COVID-19 and is unable to or does not feel well enough to telework, then the employee may request sick leave, use accrued annual leave or other forms of earned paid time off (e.g., compensatory time off or credit hours), access a voluntary leave bank, or use unpaid leave in this situation, as appropriate. Weather and safety leave would be unavailable (see CPM 2020-02, February 7, 2020), but to mitigate close contacts in the workplace, agencies may on a limited basis offer up to 3 days of administrative leave to employees who have COVID-19 symptoms and are isolating while actively seeking to be tested.

Q: Will employees who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines need to take leave to quarantine after a known close contact with an individual with COVID-19?

A: If an employee who is not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines needs to quarantine as recommended by agency quarantine protocols after a known close contact, the employee should telework during quarantine if they are able to do so. If the employee is unable to telework because, for example, they are ineligible to do so, do not have an applicable telework agreement, or are otherwise not able to telework based on their job duties, then agencies should provide weather and safety leave while the employee is in quarantine. If the employee is unable to telework during this period because they are sick, then the employee should use sick leave, annual leave, or other forms of paid time off (e.g., compensatory time off or credit hours).

Prior to providing such weather and safety leave to employees who notify the agency that they have had a known close contact, agencies should advise employees that making a false statement to the agency regarding this matter could result in disciplinary action, up to and including removal from Federal service.

Agencies may ask employees for additional information if necessary to confirm that the employee has been notified of having had a close contact, including if the agency has reason to believe the employee has requested leave under false pretenses. In requesting this information, agencies must comply with any applicable Federal laws, including requirements under the Privacy Act and Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Q: What should agencies do if an employee attempts to report to the workplace while recommended to quarantine or isolate?

A: If an employee who is recommended to isolate because they have COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a test result or to be tested, or because they have probable or confirmed COVID-19, attempts to report to the workplace, an agency may direct the employee to return home and telework. If the employee is unable to telework (because, for example, they are sick, ineligible to telework, do not have an applicable telework agreement, or are otherwise not able to telework based on their job duties), and the employee does not request to use sick leave, annual leave, or other forms of paid time off (e.g., compensatory time off or credit hours), an agency may elect to bar the employee from the workplace for the safety of others. Any decision to bar the employee should occur in consultation with the agency’s onsite security authority, human resources office, and legal counsel. In pursuing any adverse action, the agency should also follow normal processes to provide required notice to the employee. If the agency bars the employee from the workplace, the employee should be placed on administrative leave until the agency determines what status the employee should be placed in while isolating (e.g., enforced leave). Agencies, however, should avoid placing an employee on extended administrative leave in this situation and should act quickly to determine the appropriate status for the employee.

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If an employee who is recommended to quarantine attempts to report to the workplace, an agency may direct the employee to return home and telework. If the employee is unable to telework because, for example, they are ineligible to do so, do not have an applicable telework agreement, or are otherwise not able to telework based on their job duties, the agency should provide weather and safety leave.

Q: Will employees who are not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines need to take leave to quarantine after official international travel to the United States, consistent with CDC guidance?

A: If an employee who is not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines travels internationally to the United States, then agencies must require such employees to follow agency quarantine protocols and not enter a Federal facility or interact with members of the public in person as part of their official responsibilities for at least 5 full days after their travel. Employees should telework during quarantine if they are able to do so. If the employee is unable to telework because, for example, they are ineligible to do so, do not have an applicable telework agreement, or are otherwise not able to telework based on their job duties, then agencies should provide weather and safety leave while the employee is in quarantine following official international travel to the United States. If the employee is unable to telework during this period because they are sick, then the employee should use sick leave, annual leave, or other forms of paid time off (e.g., compensatory time off or credit hours).

Q: Will employees who are up to date with COVID-19 vaccines need to take leave if they delay return travel as a result of needing to wait for a test or test result after having a known close contact with someone with COVID-19 during official travel?

A: If an employee has had a known close contact with someone with COVID-19 during official travel, is not recommended to quarantine due to being up to date with COVID-19 vaccines, and has not had confirmed COVID-19 within the previous 90 days, then agencies may approve only mission-critical return travel during days 1-5 after the close contact, provided the individual remains without COVID-19 symptoms. See Travel FAQs for more information.

If such an employee is not approved for return travel by their agency because their return travel is not mission critical, the employee should telework if they are able to do so. If the employee is unable to telework because, for example, they are ineligible to do so, do not have an applicable telework agreement, or are otherwise not able to telework based on their job duties, then agencies should provide weather and safety leave during the period while such individuals are waiting to be tested at least 5 full days after they last had known close contact with someone with COVID-19, and while they are waiting for their test result.

Q: Will employees need to take leave if they develop COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting for a test result, or have probable or confirmed COVID-19, while on official travel?

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A: If, while on official travel (i.e., travel conducted under an official travel authorization), an employee develops COVID-19 symptoms and is waiting for a test result, or has probable or confirmed COVID-19, then the employee should follow agency isolation protocols and delay their return travel. The use of weather and safety leave would be unavailable (see CPM 2020-02, February 7, 2020). The employee may request sick leave, use accrued annual leave or other forms of earned paid time off (e.g., compensatory time off or credit hours), access a voluntary leave bank, or use unpaid leave in this situation, as appropriate.

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2022 Federal Employees Handbook