The Office of Management and Budget released guidance dated March 12 to all heads of Federal departments and agencies to “maximize telework flexibilities” for the portions of the Federal workforce that are most at risk of severe illness from the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The OMB guidance appears to stop well short of a broad approval of telework for all eligible Federal employees.
The memorandum, signed by OMB Acting Director Russell Vought, directs agency leaders to “assertively safeguard the health and safety of their workforce.”
The specific telework guidance appears to turn, however, on a definition from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of higher-risk Federal employees, including those who are pregnant, older, and who have “chronic health conditions” including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or compromised immune systems.
OMB said that agencies don’t need to require medical certification of those conditions, and may accept employee self-certifications.
Beyond the advice agencies on high-risk groups, OMB said “agencies are encouraged to consult with local public health officials and the CDC about whether to extend telework flexibilities more broadly to all eligible teleworkers in areas in which either such local officials or the CDC have determined there is community spread.”
It also said agencies are “encouraged to extend telework flexibilities more broadly to accommodate state and local responses to the outbreak, including, but not limited to school closures.”
Lastly, OMB encouraged agencies to approve leave for safety reasons to employees who are at high risk but not telework eligible.