House telework bill advances

Provisions added late in the legislative process improved a telework bill that the House passed last week, said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), one of the sponsors of the telework measure. Those changes introduced stronger language to ensure that the data that is transferred to the home computers of teleworkers is kept secure and that mission-critical employees can telework in the event of a disaster, Davis said.

By passing the Telework Improvements Act of 2008, the House took a major step toward statutory expansion of telework in the government. The measure would require agencies to develop telework programs that let eligible employees telework at least 20 percent of their working hours every two weeks.

Under the legislation, passed June 3, agencies would have to designate a senior-level employee as a telework managing officer and incorporate teleworking into their continuity-of-operations planning. In addition, the bill would require the comptroller general, the head of the Government Accountability Office, to submit an annual report to Congress that would evaluate agencies’ progress on their telework programs.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved a counterpart bill, the Telework Enhancement Act (S. 1000).

Advocates of expanded telework programs welcomed the House action, which increased their optimism that the legislation will become law this year.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said the involvement of a senior-level manager, as required by the measure, would help agencies overcome the opposition to telework among frontline managers, who fear a loss of control over employees working from remote locations.

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