White House seeks reopening plans from agencies

Guidance sent to agencies on Tuesday makes clear that agencies can't start phasing feds back into the workplace until they've satisfied collective bargaining requirements.

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Federal agencies are planning how and when they'll bring teleworking employees back to the workplace as COVID-19 restrictions are loosening. Now agencies have a deadline - their final plans for reopening, as well as what policies will be in place once they are open, are due July 19.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, created by President Joe Biden to give agencies ongoing guidance during the pandemic, sent an email to agencies on Tuesday outlining the timeline for them to submit their plans.

The President's Management Council, led by the Office of Management and Budget, the General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management, is leading the process, the email says.

Agencies' draft reopening approaches are due to OMB June 18, and their final procedures and policies for both re-opening and "post-reentry" are due July 19, although agencies can submit them early, the email says.

These final plans must include a "phased reentry schedule" that takes into account "ample" notice time for feds who'll have to come back into the physical office or have an altered schedule.

They should also include "the agency's intended post-reentry work environment" and what steps the agency is taking to safely increase how many employees are in the office, in line with guidance from the Task Force, the Centers for Disease Control, and any other relevant federal workplace safety agencies.

Finally, agencies need to be mindful of with collective-bargaining, the email notes, and this phased return to the workplace shouldn't start until after the agency has satisfied collective-bargaining and ample notice requirements.

"Determinations should be informed by ongoing discussions with employees, their representatives at all levels of the agency, supervisors, agency leadership, and other stakeholders about how to set up the agency and its workforce for success in the post-reentry environment," it states.

The news comes after a report on Tuesday from Axios that the White House is bringing its employees back to the office, with some exceptions, between July 6 and July 23. News of the task force email was first reported by GovExec.

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