Workforce

OPM on balancing caregiving and official duties for teleworking feds

By Mark Van Scyoc Royalty-free stock photo ID: 285175268 

In light of the number of federal employees now working from home due to coronavirus concerns, the Office of Personnel Management published additional information covering teleworking government employees who are tasked with caregiving duties while on the job.

Since Feb. 4, OPM has published multiple guidance documents advising federal agencies on how to navigate and develop workforce contingency plans during the coronavirus pandemic.

OPM advised agencies to take into account factors such as school closures, the age and care needs of employee dependents, whether there were other capable adults in the household and the employee's ability to perform work when not needed for other care duties.

In its "Options for Telework-Eligible Employees with Caregiving Responsibilities" fact sheet, OPM stressed alternatives such as granting flexible work schedules to federal employees saddled with caregiving while working from home.

"A flexible work schedule allows an employee to complete his or her 80-hour biweekly basic work requirement by determining his or her own work schedule within the limits set by the agency," OPM wrote.

"Flexible hours are the part of the workday when employees may (within limits or 'bands') choose their time of arrival and departure and break periods (i.e., work starting and stopping times)."

Because telework-eligible employees are not prevented from working at home safely, they cannot use weather and safety leave in this case, which is usually granted in cases of extreme weather, terrorist attacks or other incidents where working at one's usual workstation is not possible.

While OPM listed evacuation pay authorities and excused absences/administrative leave as other alternatives to flexible work schedules, the agency advised against allowing employees to use these options for extended periods of time.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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