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Employee Eligibility

Employee Eligibility

Agencies have discretion to make their own eligibility determinations for employees subject to operational needs while considering the specific requirements described in the Telework Enhancement Act (external link) (PDF file) (the Act). In making these decisions, individual agencies are in the best position to define what it means to “ensure that telework does not diminish employee performance or agency operations.” 

There are a variety of circumstances in each individual agency that relate to position classification, organizational structures, and agency mission areas.  As a result, it would be impractical and inadvisable to suggest a Governmentwide “standard” or develop generic language that would imply a “one-size-fits-all” approach to making eligibility determinations and in notifying employees of eligibility.  Agencies should take special care to specifically describe eligibility and participation criteria in their telework policies.

The Act (external link) (PDF file) makes a clear distinction between “eligibility” and “participation.” To be able to participate in telework, an employee must first be identified as eligible.

The Act does not establish new eligibility standards, but it does specify two categories of employees who may not be deemed eligible under any circumstances

  1. an employee who "has been officially disciplined for being absent without permission for more than 5 days in any calendar year”
  2. an employee who “has been officially disciplined for violations of subpart G of the Standards of Ethical Conduct of Employees of the Executive Branch for reviewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography, including child pornography, on a Federal Government computer or while performing official Federal Government duties [Public Law 111-292, 6502(a)(2)(A)(B)]." 

In defining the term "day" for the purpose of determining when an employee has been absent without permission (AWOP) for more than 5 days in any calendar year, agencies should adopt a broad interpretation of the law.  Specifically, agencies should define the term “day” to be associated with an employee’s tour of duty that is established by his/her agency under 5 U.S.C. 6101(a)(3), 6122, and 6127.  Under these references, an agency is required to establish the administrative workweek, including the number of hours an employee works in each day.   For example, an employee working 8 hours per day for 5 days a week, a work “day” is defined as 8 hours.  Therefore, an employee would need to be absent for all 8 hours on more than 5 distinct days in any calendar year to be deemed ineligible under the Act (external link) (PDF file).  For an employee working on a compressed work schedule of 4-10 hour days per week,  a work day is defined as 10 hours and the employee would need to be absent for all 10 hours on more than 5 distinct days in any calendar year to be ineligible for telework.  An employee may not telework when he/she has been AWOP for more than 5 days, and has been officially disciplined for such AWOP.  A 'day' counts toward the over 5 day eligibility requirement only when the AWOP occurs on 5 full workdays, and any portion of the sixth workday.

Also, agencies should apply the provisions of the statute regarding eligibility prospectively. That is, ineligibility determinations should apply only to conduct or official discipline (e.g., discipline that is in the Official Personnel File) that occurred after the enactment of the Act. 

  • Employees should understand that participation is not a "right." It should be based upon sound business and performance management principles. 
  • Effective performance management is a key component of a successful telework program. The Act (external link) (PDF file) specifies in Section 6502(b)(3) that an agency's telework policy shall "provide that an employee may not be authorized to telework if the performance of that employee does not comply with the terms of the written agreement between the agency manager and that employee."
  • Participation also may be limited because of the duties encompassed by the position.  Some positions are not conducive to telework. Section 6502(b)(4) of the Act states that telework participation would "not apply to any employee of the agency whose official duties require on a daily basis (every work day) (A) direct handling of secure materials determined to be inappropriate for telework by the agency head; or (B) on-site activity that cannot be handled remotely or at an alternate worksite."
  • When making determinations regarding employee participation, agencies and managers should be creative in considering the use of telework and other workplace flexibilities.  For example, most, if not all, jobs include some duties that are considered to be “portable” in that they generally can be performed at any location.
  • When the nature of an employee’s work prohibits telework, sound work-life principles and best practices would suggest that managers work with affected employees to avail them of opportunities to use workplace flexibilities appropriate to their situation (e.g., alternative work schedules such as flexible work schedules or compressed work schedules).


A good telework arrangement starts with a good self-assessment.  Employees are encouraged to consider the following factors in making an honest determination about their telework capabilities.  Record any concerns you may have and how you will address them in order to telework.

  • Do you have sufficient portable work for the amount of telework proposed?
  • Are you comfortable working alone for the amount of days you have requested to telework?  Will you miss the social interaction?
  • Will your teleworking affect your coworkers?  Do they need you in the office to complete work?  Will they be doing extra work because you are teleworking?
  • Are you willing to be flexible about the telework arrangement to respond to the needs of the manager, the workgroup, and the work?

  • Do you have the ability to do work with minimal direct supervision?
  • Do you have organized work practices?
  • Do you have good planning skills?
  • Do you have effective time management skills?  Are you able to meet schedules and deadlines?

  • Do you feel comfortable with the technologies, if any, that will be needed to telework?
  • Are you willing to learn any new technologies required to telework?

  • Do you have the ability to ensure good communication with your manager, co-workers, and customers?
  • Will you return emails, calls, and other messages in a timely manner?

  • Is the telework office space conducive to getting your work done?
  • Is the telework office space safe?
  • Are dependent care (i.e., child care, elder care, or care of any other dependent adults) arrangements in place?
  • Will you be distracted in the telework office space (e.g., by children, friends, television, or other responsibilities)?

Making Your Case For Telework

What happens if you have been deemed ‘eligible to telework’ under your agency telework program, but your manager is reluctant to approve your telework requests?  It is important to remember telework is not an employee benefit or entitlement and is subject to managerial approval within the limits of the agency telework policy and requirements of the law. 

If you have a manager who is a reluctant supporter of telework, you may need to build a business case for telework to address your manager’s concerns.  To begin you may find preparing a brief, written proposal could help guide your discussion. It is important to think like a manager, and in particular your manager, when developing your business case.

  • Why You Want to Telework — Explain exactly why you want to telework and what teleworking will mean to you.  Focus on the nuts and bolts of your telework arrangement, such as how things will be done or how communication will occur.
  • Employer Benefits — Relate how it will benefit your agency.  In some cases, it may be better to focus more attention on how telework will benefit the agency/organization versus how it will benefit you.
  • Job Responsibilities — Summarize what you do and identify specific tasks or parts of your job that lend themselves to teleworking.  Focus attention on telework’s positive effects on your work responsibilities. 
  • Employee Characteristics — Discuss why you would be a good candidate for teleworking.  Remember successful teleworkers need to have work habits that support independent task performance such as:  1) the ability to work with minimal direct supervision; 2) organized work practices; 3) good planning skills; 4) the ability to meet schedules and deadlines; and 5) effective communication skills.
  • Home Environment — Describe where in your home you will work.  If applicable, include a safety checklist self-certifying the space is free from hazards.
  • Equipment and Communications — Describe what equipment you will use (e.g. your employer's or yours) and how you plan to communicate with your supervisor, coworkers, clients, etc.
  • Schedule — Be Flexible.  Suggest a schedule that will be "comfortable" for your manager. Consider starting out with one day every one or two weeks and increasing the number of days, if you wish, as you both gain more experience.
  • Trial Period — Suggest a short trial period (e.g. 3-6 months minimum) with the option to change the parameters of your arrangement after you and your manager have had the opportunity to  evaluate the telework arrangement.
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