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Frequently Asked Questions Pandemic

Managers

  • The official definition of "telework" can be found in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010: "[t]he term 'telework' or 'teleworking' refers to a work flexibility arrangement under which an employee performs the duties and responsibilities of such employee's position, and other authorized activities, from an approved worksite other than the location from which the employee would otherwise work."

    In practice, "telework" is a work arrangement that allows and employee to perform work, during any part of regular, paid hours, at an approved alternative worksite (e.g., home, telework center). This definition of telework includes what is generally referred to as remote work but does not include any part of work done while on official travel or mobile work.

    You may also be familiar with the terms "telecommuting" and "flexible workplace" and both are sometimes used to describe what we now generally refer to as "telework." While "remote" and "mobile" work are also terms that are sometimes used as synonyms for telework, they tend to operate differently than telework as is apparent in the detailed operational definition.

    For consistency, OPM recommends that all agencies use the term "telework" for reporting purposes and for all other activities related to policy and legislation, as defined in the Act.
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  • Yes. Changes in an employee’s work schedule are within the discretion of the employing agency, as long as the changes are consistent with law, regulations, and any applicable negotiated agreement. In addition, agencies may require employees to perform overtime work. There is no limit in law or regulations on the amount of overtime work required each day or on weekends. For additional information, see http://www.opm.gov/oca/pay/html/factot.asp.
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  • Your family should work with your supervisor to apply for agency benefit payments. Information about benefits eligibility can be found in the guide entitled, "What You and Your Family Need To Know About Your Federal Benefits During an Emergency". This guide has extensive information on procedures for distribution of benefits. See Section IV-F of this Human Resources Planning Guide.
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  • No. Telework arrangements are typically voluntary. However, once an employee enters into a telework arrangement, it is possible that an agency may require an employee to telework if this is clearly stated and agreed to in the written telework agreement. To avoid ambiguity, the telework agreement should specify what is expected of employees under these circumstances. See Section III-A-c, Evacuation Payments and the new Telework Guide.
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  • An employee is entitled to use sick leave under certain conditions. However, under 5 CFR 630.403, an agency may grant sick leave only when supported by administratively acceptable evidence. If the supervisor does not grant the request for sick leave or any other leave, the employee maybe considered Absent Without Leave (AWOL). An agency may take disciplinary action against an AWOL employee, up to and including removal from Federal service. Also see discussion of leave flexibilities.
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  • Agencies have their own policies and procedures that determine how its employees may apply for a telework arrangement. In general, employees should be prepared to make a business-based proposal for a proposal to telework, rather than base the request to telework on personal considerations. At the very least, in addition to describing logistics like location and frequency, you should be able to discuss how you will accomplish your work without adverse effect on your organization and/or co-workers.

    While an employee may request a telework arrangement in writing or verbally (depending on the agency’s policy), the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires that a written telework agreement between the supervisor and employee be in place before s/he can begin to telework. This agreement outlines the specifics of the telework arrangement (e.g., location of telework, expectations). Also, you will be required to successfully complete an interactive telework training program before you will be allowed to telework. Note that the head of the agency has discretion to exempt employees from this training requirement if they have already been participating in telework.
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  • Government employees suffering work-related injuries and/or damages at the alternative worksite are covered by the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act, the Federal Tort Claims Act, or the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (workers’ compensation).
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  • An adjustment of work schedules for religious observances may be approved for an employee whose personal religious beliefs require that he or she abstain from work at certain times of the workday or workweek. As long as the adjustment to the work schedule does not interfere with accomplishing the agency’s mission, the employee must be permitted to work alternative work hours so he or she can meet his or her religious obligation while fulfilling his or her basic work requirements. For additional information, see http://www.opm.gov/oca/worksch/html/reli.htm.An employee also may elect to use accrued annual leave or other paid time off, such as earned compensatory time off, earned compensatory time off for travel, or earned credit hours for this purpose.
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  • Different rules apply depending on whether you are a bargaining unit or non-bargaining unit employee and whether your agency has a flexible or compressed work schedule. Bargaining unit employees may participate in an alternative work schedule program only under the terms provided in a collective bargaining agreement. Therefore, an agency that wishes to establish a flexible or compressed work schedule program for bargaining unit employees must negotiate the establishment and terms of the program with the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit.

    A majority of affected employees in a non-bargaining unit must vote to be included in a compressed work schedule program when participation in the program is mandatory. For purposes of this vote, a majority is obtained when the number of affirmative votes exceeds 50 percent of the number of employees and supervisors in the organization proposed for inclusion in a compressed work schedule. (If participation in the compressed work program is voluntary for each employee, a vote is unnecessary because employees who elect not to participate are not included and are unaffected.)

    For additional information, see www.opm.gov/oca/worksch/HTML/AWScws.asp.

    Agencies may unilaterally install flexible work schedule (FWS) programs in units staffed by non-bargaining employees. For additional information, see www.opm.gov/oca/worksch/HTML/awsfws.asp.
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  • Yes, managers can deny a request to telework, based on business reasons and subject to limitations on telework participation described in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. For example, an employee’s performance may not meet the standards outlined in the agency’s telework policy or the terms of the written telework agreement between that employee and his/her supervisor. Similarly, a position may not be eligible because its official duties and responsibilities have been determined to be incompatible with telework. The denial should be made in writing, with an explanation, and this written denial should be provided to the employee in a timely manner. Collective bargaining agreements may provide for an employee to file a grievance about the denial or cancellation of a telework agreement through the negotiated grievance procedure. Check with your agency's employee relations staff in Human Resources to discuss your agency's procedures.
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