Alternative Work Schedules
Under 5 U.S.C. 61, agencies may establish alternative work schedules (AWS) that fall into one of two categories: flexible work schedules or compressed work schedules.
A flexible work schedule (see 5 U.S.C. 6120-6126; and 5 U.S.C. 6129-6133 and 5 CFR 610 subpart D) breaks the workday into components of flexible time bands and core time. During the flexible time bands, you select arrival and departure times for the workday. The core time is the period in the schedule during which you must be present at work or account for those hours with leave, credit hours (see below), or compensatory time off.
Under a compressed work schedule (see 5 U.S.C. 6120-6121; and 5 U.S.C. 6127-6133 and 5 CFR 610 subpart D), if you are a full-time employee, you can fulfill the 80-hour biweekly work requirement in less than 10 days by increasing the number of hours in a workday. The two most common compressed work schedules are the 4-10 and the 5/4-9 schedules. If you are on a 4-10 schedule, you work four 10-hour days each work week with one day off per week. If you are on the 5-4/9 schedule, you work nine hours each day for eight days and work eight hours for one day, with one day off per pay period. A compressed work schedule may be established by the agency in a non-union unit if a majority of the affected employees vote to be included.
In unionized work units, compressed and flexible work schedules typically are subject to negotiation.
An agency may not combine features of flexible work schedules and compressed work schedules into a “hybrid” work schedule program.
Also see www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/work-schedules and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs for Elder Care at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/fact-sheets.
Credit Hours—In some flexible schedule programs, full-time or part-time employees—including General Schedule, Federal Wage System and non-appropriated fund employees but not Senior Executive Service members—may earn and use “credit hours” under rules established by the agency or negotiated with a union, for hours the employee elects to work, with supervisory approval, in excess of the basic work requirement.
You may use credit hours with supervisory approval. If you are a full-time employee, only 24 credit hours may be carried over to the next pay period. If you are a part-time employee, only the hours in your biweekly basic work requirement may be carried over to the next pay period. An agency policy or union agreement may place stricter limitations on how many credit hours may be accumulated or carried over. There is no authority in law or regulation to advance credit hours. Time cannot be charged against credit hours until the hours have been earned. For this reason, some agencies do not permit employees to use credit hours until the pay period following the one in which they are earned.
Flexible Work Schedules—The basic work requirement of a flexible work schedule (FWS) is the number of hours, excluding overtime hours, you must work or otherwise account for by leave, credit hours, holiday hours, excused absence, compensatory time off, or time off as an award. If you are a full-time employee, you must work 80 hours/biweekly pay period, or a multiple of this requirement, as determined by the agency head. Agencies also may establish daily or weekly basic work requirements. If you are a part-time employee, you work fewer hours than a full-time employee within a specified period as determined by the agency. See 5 U.S.C. 3401-3408 and 5 CFR 340.
In general, the tour of duty comprises all hours and days for which flexible and core hours have been designated. The tour of duty defines the limits within which you must complete your basic work requirement. Overtime hours are not included in the definition of a tour of duty.
The types of FWS vary significantly. Agencies have the authority to establish flexible and core hours to meet their needs. Temporary changes in the tour of duty may be made under the terms of a negotiated agreement, if applicable, or agency policy.
If you are under the FWS program, overtime hours are all hours of work in excess of eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week which are officially ordered in advance by management. The requirement that overtime hours be officially ordered in advance also applies to nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (see Chapter 1, Section 6). If you are on FWS, you may not earn overtime pay as a result of including “suffered or permitted” hours under the FLSA as hours of work. See 5 CFR 551.401(a)(2).
If you are covered by an FWS program, management may order you to work hours beyond the number of hours you planned to work on a specific day. If the hours ordered to be worked are not in excess of eight hours in a day or 40 hours in a week at the time they are performed, the agency, at its discretion, may permit or require you to: take time off from work on a subsequent workday for a period equal to the number of extra hours of work ordered; complete your basic work requirement as scheduled and count the extra hours of work ordered as credit hours; or complete your basic work requirement as scheduled if the agency policy permits.
An agency may grant compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay at your request (including Federal Wage System employees and nonexempt employees) under an FWS. (See 5 U.S.C. 6123(a)). Compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay may not be required for any Federal Wage System employee, any employee who is nonexempt from the FLSA, or any FLSA-exempt employee whose rate of basic pay is equal to or less than the rate for GS-10, step 10.
If your tour of duty includes eight or more hours available for work during daytime hours (that is, between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.), you are not entitled to night pay even though you voluntarily elect to work during hours for which night pay is normally required (that is, between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.). Night differential will not be paid solely because you elect to work credit hours, or elect a time of arrival or departure at a time of day when night differential is otherwise authorized, except that if you are a FWS employee, you are entitled to night differential for regularly scheduled non-overtime work when a majority of the hours of your FWS schedule for a daily tour of duty occur during the night. See 5 U.S.C. 5343(f) and 6123(c)(2).
Under an FWS program, if you are a full-time employee who is relieved or prevented from working on a day designated as a holiday (or an “in lieu of” holiday) by federal statute or executive order, you are entitled to your rate of basic pay on that day for eight hours. (See 5 U.S.C. 6124.) If you are a part-time FWS employee and a holiday falls on a day during your tour of duty and you are relieved or prevented from working on that day, you are entitled to your rate of basic pay for the typical, average, or scheduled number of hours of work for that day toward your basic work requirement (not to exceed eight hours).
If you are a full-time or part-time employee under an FWS program and perform non-overtime work on a holiday (or a day designated as the “in lieu of” holiday), you are entitled to your rate of basic pay plus premium pay equal to your rate of basic pay for that holiday work. Holiday premium pay is limited to a maximum of eight hours. If you are under an FWS program and work during non-overtime and non-holiday hours that are part of your basic work requirement on a holiday, you are paid your rate of basic pay for those hours of work.
As a full-time employee who performs regularly scheduled non-overtime work, a part of which is performed on Sunday, you are entitled to Sunday premium pay for the entire daily tour of duty, not to exceed eight hours. It is possible for you to have two daily tours of duty that begin or end on the same Sunday.
Paid time off during your basic work requirement must be charged to the appropriate leave category, credit hours, compensatory time off, or to excused absence if warranted. There is no requirement that you use flexible hours for medical or dental appointments or other personal matters if you wish to charge this time to leave. To the extent permitted by the agency, you may choose to charge time off during flexible hours to an appropriate leave category or use credit hours when time off is scheduled during flexible hours in order to preserve leave.
The head of an agency may grant excused absence with pay to employees covered by an FWS program under the same circumstances as excused absence would be granted to employees covered by other work schedules. For employees on an FWS, the amount of excused absence to be granted should be based on the established basic work requirement in effect for the period covered by the excused absence.
If you are covered by an FWS program and are assigned to a temporary duty station using another schedule—either traditional or AWS—your agency may allow you to continue to use the schedule used at your permanent work site (if suitable) or require you to change the schedule to conform to operations at the temporary work site.
If you are a Fair Labor Standards Act-exempt or nonexempt employee under an FWS program and are in a travel status during the hours of your regularly scheduled administrative workweek, including regularly scheduled overtime hours, that time is considered to be hours of work and must be used for the purpose of overtime pay calculations, as applicable. Note, however, that overtime hours are initially scheduled for work, not travel.
Compressed Work Schedules—The tour of duty for employees under a CWS program is defined by a fixed schedule established by the agency. Although agencies may change or stagger the arrival and departure times of employees, there are no provisions for employee flexibility in reporting or quitting times under a CWS program. There is no legal authority for credit hours under a CWS program. The law provides for credit hours only for flexible work schedules. See 5 U.S.C. 6121(4). If you are a full-time employee under a CWS program who is exempt from the FLSA, your overtime hours are all officially ordered and approved hours of work in excess of the compressed work schedule. If you are a full-time employee who is covered by the FLSA (non-exempt), your overtime hours also include any hours worked outside the compressed work schedule that are “suffered or permitted.” If you are a part-time employee, your overtime hours are hours in excess of the CWS for a day (but must be more than eight hours) or for a week (but must be more than 40 hours).
If you request compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay, you may be approved only for irregular or occasional overtime work. Compensatory time off may not be approved for an SES member. Mandatory compensatory time off is limited to FLSA-exempt employees (who are not Federal Wage System employees) whose rate of basic pay is greater than the rate for GS-10, step 10, and only in lieu of overtime pay for irregular or occasional overtime work. See 5 U.S.C. 5543(a)(2).
You are entitled to night pay for regularly scheduled night work performed between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. The regular rules under 5 U.S.C. 5343(f) apply in determining the majority of hours for entitlement to night pay for Federal Wage System employees. If you are a full-time employee on a CWS who is relieved or prevented from working on a day designated as a holiday (or an “in lieu of” holiday) by federal statute or executive order, you are entitled to your rate of basic pay for the number of hours of the CWS on that day. (See 5 CFR 610.406(a). If you are a part-time employee and a holiday falls on a day during your scheduled tour of duty and you are relieved or prevented from working on that day, you are entitled to your rate of basic pay for the number of hours you normally would have been scheduled to work that day. See 5 CFR 610.406(b).
If you are a full-time employee under a CWS program who performs non-overtime work on a holiday (or a day designated as the “in lieu of” holiday), you are entitled to basic pay plus premium pay equal to your rate of basic pay for the work that is not in excess of your compressed work schedule for that day. (See 5 CFR 610.407). Since CWS schedules are fixed schedules, you must not be required to move your regularly scheduled days off solely to avoid payment of holiday premium pay or to reduce the number of holiday hours included in the basic work requirement. See 5 U.S.C. 6101(a)(3)(E).
If you are a part-time employee under a CWS program, you are entitled to holiday premium pay only for work performed during your CWS on a holiday. As a part-time employee scheduled to work on a day designated as an “in lieu of” holiday for full-time employees, you are not entitled to holiday premium pay for work performed on that day, since part-time employees are not entitled to “in lieu of” holidays. See 5 CFR 610.406(b).
If you are a full-time or part-time employee who performs non-overtime work during a tour of duty, a part of which is performed on Sunday, you are entitled to Sunday premium pay for your entire tour of duty on that day. Paid time off during your basic work requirement must be charged to sick or annual leave unless you used other paid leave or accumulated compensatory time off, or unless excused absence is approved.
The head of an agency may grant excused absence with pay to employees covered by a CWS program under the same circumstances as excused absence would be granted to employees covered by other work schedules.
If you are an employee covered by a CWS program and are assigned to a temporary duty station using another work schedule—either traditional or AWS—your agency may allow you to continue to use the schedule used at your permanent work site (if suitable) or require you to change the schedule to conform to operations at the temporary work site.
If you are a Fair Labor Standards Act-exempt or nonexempt employee under a CWS program who is in a travel status during the hours of your regularly scheduled administrative workweek, including regularly scheduled overtime hours, that time is considered to be hours of work and must be used for the purpose of overtime pay calculations, as applicable. Note, however, that overtime hours are initially scheduled for work, not travel.
Job Sharing for Part-Time Workers
Job sharing is a form of part-time employment in which the schedules of two or more part-time employees are arranged to cover the duties of a single full-time position—for example, each job sharer may work a portion of the day or week. In some cases, job sharing provides part-time schedules that otherwise would not be available.
There is no definitive list of jobs “suitable” for job sharing, and no law or regulation limits part-time or job sharing to specific jobs or grade levels. Any job may be filled by a part-time employee or by a team of job sharers when the arrangement meets the needs of the agency and the employee(s).
A proposal can come from a full-time employee who wants to reduce work hours, from a team of job sharers, or from a supervisor who wants to consider filling a vacancy with job sharers. When an employee’s request for part-time work cannot be accommodated because of the need for full-time coverage, job sharing may be an option.
The first place to look is in the office where the employee works (or a related office) to see if another employee is interested. The contact point in the agency’s personnel office may also be keeping a list of employees who want to reduce their work hours.
An agency may post a vacancy announcement to let employees know of the job sharing opportunity, but competition under agency merit promotion procedures is generally not required when an employee moves to a position with a different work schedule as long as the positions are at the same or lower grade level and have no more promotion potential.
When two job sharers at the same grade level are jointly responsible for all the duties and responsibilities of the full-time position, there is no need to restructure the position. Each team member should have a copy of the original position description to which a statement has been attached to show that the incumbent is a job sharer jointly responsible for carrying out all the duties and responsibilities of the position.
When the job sharers will be individually responsible only for portions of the job, or when the job sharers are at different grade levels, separate position descriptions are required to reflect the actual duties and responsibilities of each employee. Each job sharer must have a position description that accurately reflects his or her duties and responsibilities.
The decision on whether job sharers should be jointly responsible for the entire position or only for separate functions depends on the job and the abilities of the job sharing team. To determine the arrangement for a particular job, the supervisor should examine the position description and decide which tasks will be shared; that is, handled by whichever team member is on duty, and which will be assigned to a specific individual, based on skills and experience.
Specific work schedules depend on the nature of the job and the needs of the office and the job sharing team. Almost any reasonable arrangement is possible if it meets the needs of the supervisor and the job sharers. Work schedules for job sharers can be from 16 to 32 hours per week and can be varied in the same way as other part-time employees.
Each member of a job sharing team must have his or her own performance standards. In a reduction in force, part-time and job-sharing employees have assignment rights only to part-time positions. Similarly, full-time employees have assignment rights only to full-time positions.
Telework, also called telecommuting or flexiplace, involves working at home or at another approved location away from the regular worksite, such as a telecommuting center. Telework is voluntary, is not an employee right, and is not to be used as a substitute for dependent care. The 2010 Telework Enhancement Act (P.L. 111-292) expanded and put into law many previous policies. It required each agency to establish a policy under which employees are generally presumed to be eligible to telework so long as it does not diminish employee performance or agency operations. It excepted occupations involving daily handling of secure materials or daily duties that cannot be handled at an alternative worksite; however, telework is allowed even in those circumstances in emergencies or other situations at an agency’s discretion.
The law also:
• required each agency to designate each position’s telework status and to assign a telework managing officer to oversee and promote the program;
• set requirements for incorporating teleworking into agency continuity-of-operations planning;
• barred telework by employees who had been disciplined for certain reasons, including for unexcused absences of more than five days in a year;
• required written agreements between employees and management specifying the terms of the work arrangement;
• required agencies to provide training to teleworkers and ensure that no distinction is made between teleworkers and non-teleworkers for performance appraisal, training, work requirements, and similar purposes;
• set standards on issues including information security; and
• required ongoing reports to assess agency use of telework.
Telework affects conditions of employment, and agencies must consult and negotiate with unions, as appropriate.
Individual agency practices vary. Most teleworking employees work away from their principal site on a predetermined schedule several days a month, spending most of their time at the regular site to improve communication, minimize isolation, and use facilities not readily available offsite. In addition, employees may telework on a situational basis, such as when working on a certain project, when severe weather or other conditions hamper commuting to the regular worksite or make working there unsafe (see Severe Weather and Other Emergencies, below), or in flu emergencies (see Pandemic Flu, below).
However, any employee who wishes to telework, regardless of which type, must first complete a telework training program provided by the agency and must enter into a written agreement with his/her supervisor. Supervisors and managers of teleworking employees must also complete telework training prior to entering into the agreement. The agreements typically cover issues including the schedule, the location, the equipment to be used and who will provide it, safety standards, information security policies, and expectations for working in severe weather or other emergency situations. They are to be updated as circumstances change.
Decisions regarding equipment are made by the agency and individual manager under the agency’s telework policy and any collective bargaining agreements. Generally, the government is responsible for the service and maintenance of government-owned equipment. Teleworkers using their own equipment are responsible for its service and maintenance.
Typically, the regular worksite remains the official duty station for such purposes as special salary rates, locality pay adjustments, and travel (see Official Duty Station in Section 1 of this chapter). The existing rules on hours of duty, pay, leave, and overtime generally continue.
Some teleworking employees work from other federal facilities or from local telework centers in addition to or instead of working from home.
Employees suffering work-related injuries and/or damages at the alternative worksite are covered under the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act, the Federal Tort Claims Act, and the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.
Note: Telework-eligible employees generally are ineligible for weather and safety leave, which an agency may grant for circumstances that prevent employees from safely traveling to or performing work at an approved location. See Chapter 5, Section 1.
Telework is not meant to be a substitute for dependent care. Teleworkers are expected to arrange for dependent care just as they would if they were working at a federal facility. While the presence of dependents in the household is not an absolute bar to teleworking, employees may not telework with the intent of or for the sole purpose of meeting their dependent care responsibilities while performing official duties.
However, there may be unplanned or temporary circumstances, such as an unscheduled telework day in which schools are closed, when telework may be an appropriate short-term workplace flexibility for employees with caregiving responsibilities. Guidance on use of telework for such situations, as well as for other special situations such as a transition period for employees to return to work after giving birth, is at www.telework.gov/guidance-legislation/telework-guidance/telework-and-dependent-care. Guidance on premium pay, leave, work scheduling flexibilities, and other telework-related issues is at www.telework.gov. Also see the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs for Elder Care at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/fact-sheets.
Family-Friendly Schedules and Work Arrangements
A presidential memo of June 23, 2014 ordered agencies to make greater use of work scheduling and other flexibilities, stating that it is the policy of the federal government to “promote a culture in which managers and employees understand the workplace flexibilities and work-life programs available to them and how these measures can improve agency productivity and employee engagement.”
The memo and implementing guidance (in CPM 2014-11 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals) ordered agencies to regularly remind employees of the available flexibilities and to identify and address unnecessary barriers to their use.
Employees have the right to request a work scheduling flexibility “without fear of retaliation or adverse employment action as a consequence of making such a request,” the memo said. It further ordered agencies to make sure their policies provide that on an employee’s request for such flexibility, the supervisor or designee will confer directly with the employee to understand the nature of the request, give it careful consideration, and respond within 20 business days. The final decision remains a matter of management discretion, however, and is subject to any applicable collective bargaining requirements.
The memo told agencies to ensure that certain flexibilities are provided “to the maximum extent practicable” consistent with laws, rules and the agency’s mission needs. These include part-time employment and job sharing; alternative work schedules, including assurance that core hours are limited only to those hours that are necessary; telework; and break times and private spaces for nursing mothers. Also specified were various leave flexibilities: annual leave and sick leave, including the advancement of leave for employee and family care situations; sick leave for family care and bereavement, to care for a family member with a serious health condition and for adoption; consecutive or intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act leave for purposes including for childbirth, adoption, and foster care; leave sharing programs; bone marrow and organ donor leave; and leave related to domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking situations.
The memo also encouraged agencies to increase the availability and use of work-life balance programs such as dependent care programs including on-site child care, child-care subsidies, emergency child care and elder care; employee assistance programs including counseling, resources and referrals; worksite health and wellness programs; and support for nursing mothers. Guidance on accommodations for them, including provision of private space and use of break time, is in an August 6, 2015 memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
In addition, a presidential memo of January 15, 2015 generally required agencies to offer, regardless of available leave balances, advanced sick leave in connection with the birth or adoption of a child and for other sick leave eligible uses, and advanced annual leave up to the amount an employee earns in a year for foster care placement in the employee’s home or for bonding with a healthy newborn or newly adopted child. See Chapter 5, Section 1.
That memo further ordered that agency leave policies must ensure: that employees experiencing the birth or adoption of a child, foster care placement in their home, or who have other circumstances eligible for sick or annual leave, are aware of the full range of benefits to which they are entitled; that discretionary flexibilities are used to the maximum extent practicable, consistent with mission needs; and that employees understand the benefits for which they may qualify. Policies affected by those requirements include those governing use of accrued sick and annual leave and advancement of such leave, Family and Medical Leave Act leave and leave without pay for a period beyond that provided under that law, break times and private space for nursing mothers; donated leave under leave sharing programs, backup dependent care services, telework, and flexible work schedules, part-time schedules and job sharing arrangements.
Also see www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care and the Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities and Work-Life Programs for Elder Care at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration/fact-sheets.
An April 18, 2012 White House memo titled Establishing Policies for Addressing Domestic Violence in the Federal Workforce states that it is the government’s policy to promote the health and safety of its employees by acting to prevent domestic violence within the workplace and by providing support and assistance to employees whose working lives are affected by such violence.
Follow-up guidance issued in 2013 by the Office of Personnel Management defines domestic violence for this purpose as including physical or sexual violence, emotional and/or psychological intimidation, verbal abuse, stalking, economic control, harassment, threats, physical intimidation, or injury. It requires agencies to provide leave and/or other workplace flexibilities to help the employee remain safe and maintain work performance.
Potential accommodations for employees may include: annual leave for purposes including attending to legal matters; sick leave for purposes such as dealing with injuries or meeting with medical providers or counselors; grants of leave without pay, excused absence, family and medical leave and eligibility for leave sharing; flexible work schedules; telework; and compensatory time off, among others. When a need for time off is foreseeable, an employee must provide reasonable advance notice to the agency.
The impact of domestic violence is to be taken into consideration where the victim exhibits workplace behaviors such as absenteeism that could lead to disciplinary actions.
To take adverse action against employees who perpetrate such violence, either at the workplace or away from it, there must be a proven “nexus” between the specific misconduct of the employee and the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties.
The Guidance for Agency-Specific Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking Policies at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/worklife/reference-materials/guidance-for-agency-specific-dvsas-policies.pdf also addresses training, confidentiality and other related issues. A free training course titled “Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking in the Workplace” covering issues such as potential signs and symptoms, confidentiality, and potential sources of help is available to all federal employees at www.opm.gov/wiki/training/Index.aspx.
A Presidential memo of April 22, 1998 directed agencies to use work scheduling and leave flexibilities to allow employees to engage in certain volunteer activities during normal working hours, while considering the effect of the employee’s absence or change in schedule on work operations and productivity.
Work scheduling arrangements can include approving: alternative work schedules or working additional hours to build up and use credit hours under a flexible work schedule; requests from employees for compensatory time off in exchange for performing an equal amount of time in irregular or occasional overtime work; or part-time work or job sharing.
Agencies are to be accommodating regarding requests for annual leave consistent with 5 CFR 630 subpart C and applicable collective bargaining agreements. Leave without pay may be granted at the agency’s discretion although it is deemed appropriate for extended periods only if the employee is expected to return at the end of the period. Agencies also have discretion to excuse employees without loss of pay or charge to leave (excused absence or administrative leave) where the activity directly relates to the agency’s mission.
While managers, supervisors, and other agency officials may encourage employees to become more involved in volunteer activities, 5 U.S.C. 6132 provides that employees may not be coerced for the purpose of interfering with their legal rights under flexible and compressed work schedules.
Conditions of employment (such as work schedules) of bargaining unit employees may not be changed without notifying the exclusive representative of those employees and, upon timely request, bargaining on the matter to the extent required and/or permitted by laws, regulations, and collective bargaining agreements. Moreover, bargaining unit employees may participate in flexible or compressed work schedules “only to the extent expressly provided under a collective bargaining agreement between the agency and the exclusive representative.” See 5 U.S.C. 6130(a)(2). Conflict of interest laws and related regulations governing outside employment for compensation also apply to federal employees who engage in volunteer activities. Hatch Act restrictions apply to employees who are on duty, as well as to those on paid or unpaid leave. Employees may not use government facilities and equipment for other than authorized purposes. (See 5 CFR 2635.704.) Employees may consult their agency ethics officials or office of general counsel for information about what may be authorized by their agency or department.
In most instances, employees who perform mission-related agency sponsored/sanctioned, or skills-enhancing volunteer activities while they are on excused absence are covered by 5 U.S.C. 81, Compensation for Work Injuries.
See the volunteer activities fact sheet at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/leave-administration.
Recognition—Departments and agencies are encouraged to recognize their employees who volunteer to help others, although usually not in the form of cash or paid time off but rather through citations, letters of appreciation, or small mementos.
Combined Federal Campaign—Annual OPM guidance regarding the Combined Federal Campaign (at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals) encourages agencies to make employees available without charge to leave to serve in CFC-related roles such as loaned executives, coordinators, keyworkers, and members of local federal coordinating committees.
Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Programs—An OPM memo of August 14, 2012 (at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals) encourages federal employees in careers related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics to engage in volunteer activities in their communities such as science festivals, robotics competitions, job shadowing, and mentoring that are designed to encourage students to pursue those fields. It said agencies should consider using flexibilities such as alternative work schedules, granting annual leave, leave without pay, credit hours under flexible work schedules, and compensatory time off to allow such employees to perform that type of volunteer service. Agencies also may grant excused absence when in the agency’s interest.
Preventive Health Services and Screenings
Agencies may use work schedule and leave flexibilities to allow federal employees to take advantage of health screening programs and other preventive health measures. See Health Promotion in Section 4 of this chapter.
Lunch is an approved period of time in a non-pay and non-work status that interrupts a basic workday or a period of overtime work for the purpose of permitting employees to eat or engage in permitted personal activities (see 5 U.S.C. 6101(a)(3)(F) and 5 CFR 551.411(c), 610.101, and 610.121(a)(6)). Agencies are allowed to establish their own policies, including whether lunch breaks will be required or permitted during overtime hours and whether they will be required or permitted for part-time employees.
The law does not provide an explicit entitlement to a meal period. Each agency has the authority to establish its own requirements for meal periods. An agency may require or permit unpaid meal periods during overtime hours, and the policy may be different from the one for the basic workweek. For example, an agency could permit you to work eight overtime hours on a Saturday or Sunday without any requirement for a meal period.
In most circumstances, an agency is prohibited from scheduling a break in working hours of more than one hour during a basic workday. This limitation applies to lunch and other meal periods. An agency may permit or require shorter meal periods. An agency may not extend a regularly scheduled lunch break by permitting you to take an authorized rest period (with pay) prior to or immediately following lunch, since a rest period is considered part of your compensable basic workday.
Unpaid meal periods must provide bona fide breaks in the workday. If you are not excused from job duties, or if you are recalled to job duties, you are entitled to pay for compensable work that is not minimal in nature. However, an agency may restrict you to a limited area (such as a secure government building or military installation) while in an on-call status during a meal period without creating an entitlement to pay for the meal period.
Meal periods during 24-hour shifts are compensable hours of work for firefighters paid under 5 CFR 550 subpart M. Meal periods are hours of work for FLSA nonexempt employees engaged in law enforcement activities who receive annual premium pay for administratively uncontrollable overtime work under 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(2), but are not actual hours of work for criminal investigators who receive law enforcement availability pay under 5 U.S.C. 5545(a).
Agencies establish policies stating whether meal periods will be required or permitted when part-time employees or employees who work under flexible work schedules have basic workdays that are less than eight hours long. See the fact sheet at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/work-schedules.
Work Schedule Adjustments for Religious Observances
To the extent that modifications in work schedules do not interfere with accomplishing an agency’s mission, federal agencies must approve your request to adjust work schedules for the purpose of taking time off without charge to leave or entitlement to overtime pay when your personal religious beliefs require that you abstain from work during periods of a workday or workweek (see 5 U.S.C. 5550(a) and 5 CFR 550 subpart J). When deciding whether to approve your request for an adjusted work schedule, a supervisor should not make any judgment about your religious beliefs or your affiliation with a religious organization. A supervisor may disapprove your request if modifications of your work schedule would interfere with the efficient accomplishment of the agency’s mission.
The overtime pay provisions of Title 5, United States Code, and the Fair Labor Standards Act do not apply to employees who work different hours or days because of religious observances, even if you voluntarily work in excess of 40 hours per week or eight hours per day for this purpose. If you are separated or transferred before using the time set aside for religious observances, any hours not used must be paid at your rate of basic pay in effect when the extra hours of work were performed.
See the fact sheet at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/work-schedules.
Severe Weather and Other Emergencies
The Governmentwide Dismissal and Closure Procedures guide (see a November 16, 2018 memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals) sets work scheduling and other policies in the event of severe weather or other emergency situations. A determination that employees are prevented from safely traveling to or safely performing work at an approved work location may result in closure of a federal office (closed to the public and non-emergency employees) for the full day or authorization of a delayed arrival. Authorization of early departure may be based on unsafe conditions at the work location or unsafe travel conditions affecting travel from the work location which make it unsafe for the employee to continue to perform work at the location.
In the Washington, DC, area, the Office of Personnel Management issues operating status announcements applying to employees working in all Executive Branch agencies with offices located inside the Washington Capital Beltway. Outside that area, federal field office heads make operating status decisions for their agencies’ employees. Where Federal Executive Boards (see www.feb.gov) exist, they make recommendations to agency facilities in their areas to act on a coordinated basis, although the final decision still rests with the field office heads. Operating status announcements are to identify the affected area and include procedures concerning telework, arrival and departure times, and leave requests. They are communicated in various ways, including direct communications with employees and posting on agency sites, through agency social media accounts and announcements to the news media.
Employees typically are granted weather and safety leave, which is paid time off without charge to other forms of leave for the time they are excused from work due to an operating status decision (see Administrative/Investigative/Notice/Weather and Safety Leave in Chapter 5, Section 1). However, some exceptions apply. Telework program participants—those approved to telework, even if there are extended periods during which the employee does not perform telework—are ineligible except that:
• An agency may provide weather and safety leave to a telework-ready employee who, in the agency’s judgment, could not have reasonably anticipated the severe weather or other emergency condition and therefore did not take home needed equipment or work. (For example, an area weather forecast changes dramatically during the weekend so an employee cannot reasonably be expected to telework on Monday.)
• An agency may provide weather and safety leave to a telework-ready employee who is prevented from safely working at the telework site (such as by flooding or a roof collapse) as a result of the severe weather or other emergency event. In this case, the home or other approved telework site is also impacted in such a way that work cannot be safely performed.
Also, agencies have discretion to grant weather and safety leave to teleworking employees on an exceptional case-by-case basis for reasons such as electricity, infrastructure or online connectivity issues.
OPM strongly encourages agencies to permit eligible telework-ready employees to telework when an operating status announcement includes unscheduled telework, if such action would not unduly interfere with mission accomplishment.
Note: If an agency policy bars an employee from teleworking at his or her home when there is a child or elder care situation, then the home is not an approved location. Therefore, if the employee is not permitted to telework under agency policies, and cannot safely travel to or perform work at the regular office location, an agency may grant weather and safety leave to the employee. If an agency policy allows an employee to telework when a young child or other person requiring the presence of a caregiver is present in the home, any time spent providing care to such individuals would not be considered hours of work. The employee would have to take paid or unpaid leave for that time and would not be eligible for weather and safety leave.
Other exceptions include that: employees may not receive weather and safety leave for hours during which they are on preapproved leave or other paid time off; an employee whose home is considered the employee’s official worksite is ineligible when the employee’s parent office is closed except if the employee is unable to safely perform work at the employee’s home; and employees on flexible work schedules may not change a scheduled FWS day off to another workday if the agency determines the primary purpose of the request would be to allow the employee to receive weather and safety leave on the previously scheduled day off.
Individual agencies determine which of their employees are considered emergency employees; they are expected to report for work on time or remain at the worksite regardless of an agency operating status change, unless otherwise instructed. An agency may determine that the circumstances have made traveling to or performing work at the worksite unsafe for emergency employees. In these situations, the agency may either require the emergency employee to work at another location or determine that circumstances justify providing weather and safety leave to emergency employees.
If you are a non-emergency employee, the categories are:
• Federal agencies are open—You are expected to report to your worksite or begin telework on time.
• Federal agencies are open with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework—You must notify your supervisor of your intent to use unscheduled leave (including annual leave, earned compensatory time off, earned credit hours, leave without pay, or sick leave if you meet normal qualifications) or unscheduled telework (if you are telework program participant).
• Federal agencies are operating under a delayed arrival policy of a designated number of hours, with the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework—You are to plan your commute so that you arrive at work a specified number of hours later than your normal arrival time. Employees who report to the regular worksite are granted weather and safety leave for the hours between the employee’s typical arrival time and the reporting time, except that such leave is reduced if the employee arrives at work before the final reporting time. As an alternative, eligible employees may notify their supervisors that they are using the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework instead of reporting to the regular worksite, in which case they will not receive weather and safety leave—and will be responsible for accounting for the entire workday by taking other leave (or paid time off), performing telework, or a combination.
• Federal agencies are operating under a delayed arrival policy requiring employees to arrive at the office no later than a designated time, with the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework—You should plan your commute to arrive at the worksite by no later than the final reporting time in the announcement. Employees who report to the worksite are granted weather and safety leave for the hours between the employee’s typical arrival time and the final reporting time, except that such leave is reduced if the employee arrives at work before the final reporting time. Employees who choose to use unscheduled telework versus reporting to the worksite will not receive weather and safety leave for the delayed arrival period, nor will employees taking unscheduled leave or other paid time off, who will be charged leave or other paid time off for the entire workday.
• Federal agencies are open with a staggered early departure of a specified number of hours earlier than your normal departure—Employees depart a set number of hours earlier than their normal departure times and will be granted weather and safety leave for the number of hours remaining in their workday (note: if an employee arrives home after his or her workday has concluded, there are no hours remaining in the workday), except for telework program participants. Telework program participants working in the office when an early departure is announced generally may receive weather and safety leave only for the amount of time required to commute home (excluding the period of time for an unpaid lunch break, if applicable). This means that telework program participants must complete any remaining time in their workday by either teleworking or taking leave (paid or unpaid) or other paid time off once they arrive home, unless one of the above exceptions applies. Employees who were already performing telework when an early departure announcement is made must continue to telework or take unscheduled leave or other paid time off, or a combination, for the remainder of their tour of duty unless one of the above exceptions applies.
• Federal agencies are open with a staggered early departure and a requirement that employees must leave by a specified time—Employees depart a set number of hours earlier than their normal departure time but no later than the specified time, at which point the office is closed. They will be granted weather and safety leave for the number of hours remaining in their workday, except for telework program participants, for whom the policies immediately above apply.
• Immediate departure—Employees working in the office must depart immediately and will receive weather and safety leave for the number of hours remaining in their workday, except for telework program participants, for whom the policies immediately above apply.
• Federal agencies are closed—In general, employees will be granted weather and safety leave for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are (1) an emergency employee, (2) a telework program participant, (3) on official travel outside of the duty station, (4) on preapproved leave (paid or unpaid) or other time off, or (5) on an alternative working schedule day off or other non-workday. Telework program participants must telework for the entire workday, take other leave (paid or unpaid) or other time off, or use a combination of telework and leave or other paid time off unless one of the above exceptions applies.
• Shelter in place—Offices are closed to the public; employees (and any members of the public in the building) should follow the agency’s shelter in place policies and remain in the designated safe area until receiving further instructions. Employees may be restricted to their agency’s premises for periods beyond their normal tour of duty because of events beyond the agency’s control. Unless employees are required to perform work, they will not be entitled to any additional pay for this extended period. Employees performing telework are expected to continue working during the shelter-in-place unless affected by the emergency or otherwise notified by their agencies.
Other emergency-related policies include:
Emergency Preparedness Planning—Federal agencies in buildings managed by the General Services Administration are required to establish an Occupant Emergency Plan, a short-term emergency response program that establishes procedures for safeguarding lives and property. You should familiarize yourself with the procedures that have been put into place at your agency, as well as the means of notification that your agency will use and the status of any protective equipment your agency may provide.
A FEMA publication at www.fema.gov/resource-document-library, Emergency Preparedness for Federal Employees in the National Capital Region, contains general information on emergency procedures governmentwide as well as specific considerations for employees in the Washington, DC area.
Executive Order 13347 of 2004 ordered agencies to consider, in their emergency preparedness planning, the unique needs of agency employees with disabilities and individuals with disabilities who the agency serves. Agencies are to coordinate with other levels of government as well as with private organizations and individuals and facilitate cooperation of emergency preparedness plans as they relate to individuals with disabilities. The order established within the Department of Homeland Security the Interagency Coordinating Council on Emergency Preparedness and Individuals with Disabilities to coordinate agency activities under the order.
Premium Pay—5 U.S.C. 5547(b) and 5 CFR 550.106 make exceptions to the biweekly premium pay limitation. When the head of an agency or his or her designee determines that an emergency posing a direct threat to life or property exists, an employee who is receiving premium pay for performing overtime work in connection with the emergency will be subject to an annual pay limitation rather than the biweekly pay limitation (with the exception of certain fixed premium payments, such as availability pay, as specified in 5 CFR 550.107). Employees paid under an annual limitation receive premium pay only to the extent that the aggregate of basic pay and premium pay for the calendar year does not exceed the greater of the annual rate for GS-15, step 10 (including any applicable special rate or locality rate), or Level V of the Executive Schedule.
Special Solicitations and Emergency Leave Transfer—OPM may grant permission for special solicitations of federal employees, outside of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), in support of victims in cases of emergencies and disasters. OPM also may establish an emergency leave transfer program (see Chapter 5, Section 3) to permit employees in an executive agency to donate unused annual leave for transfer to employees of the same or other agencies who have been adversely affected by the emergency or major disaster and who need additional time off from work without having to use their own paid leave. These programs are announced as pertinent in memos to agencies posted at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
Hiring—Under 5 CFR 213.3102(i)(2), agencies may make 30-day appointments in the excepted service to fill a critical hiring need and may extend them for an additional 30 days. They may use this authority to fill senior level positions, as well as positions at lower grades. Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP), Re-Employment Priority List, and Interagency CTAP (ICTAP) requirements under 5 CFR 330 do not apply to these appointments. Agencies also may make competitive service appointments for 120 days or less without clearing CTAP or ICTAP and OPM may authorize other options upon agency request, such as temporary emergency need appointments (up to one year), SES limited emergency appointments, re-employed annuitants, and rehiring retirees or others who left the federal government with buyouts. Agencies may also use governmentwide direct hire authorities and may request specific direct hire authority for occupations appropriate for support of relief and recovery efforts, and OPM may authorize other options, including waivers that facilitate the re-employment of annuitants. See an August 11, 2016 memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
Changing Employees’ Work Schedules—During emergency situations, agencies may need to change employees’ work schedules to meet mission requirements. Typically, an employee’s tour of duty must be scheduled in advance of the administrative workweek and must consist of five consecutive workdays, with the same working hours each day. However, 5 U.S.C. 6101(a)(3) permits the head of an agency to change an employee’s work schedule without regard to these requirements as long as the changes are consistent with other laws and regulations and the agency follows the negotiated collective bargaining agreement, if applicable. In addition, if the head of an agency finds that a particular alternative work schedule (AWS) has had an “adverse agency impact,” the agency must terminate the AWS under 5 U.S.C. 6131(a)(2). If the use of AWS is provided for in a collective bargaining agreement, the agency may reopen the agreement and negotiate the termination of the AWS. See 5 U.S.C. 6131(c)(3)(A).
Furloughs Due to Extended Emergencies—In the event of a prolonged shutdown due to severe or hazardous conditions, disruption of public services, or other emergency situations, an agency may find it necessary to furlough non-emergency employees. Such an action places an employee in a non-duty, non-pay status for the duration of the furlough.
Under 5 CFR 752, agencies must follow adverse action procedures when furloughing covered employees for 30 consecutive calendar days or less or for 22 nonconsecutive workdays or less. Under normal conditions, these regulations require an agency to give employees against whom an adverse action is to be taken at least 30 days of notice and an opportunity to respond before the action is taken. However, under 5 CFR 752.404(d)(2), agencies need not follow these two requirements when an adverse action furlough is based on “unforeseeable circumstances,” such as sudden breakdowns in equipment or sudden emergencies requiring the agency to curtail activities immediately. Agencies must follow reduction-in-force procedures when furloughing employees for 31 or more consecutive calendar days, or for 23 or more nonconsecutive workdays.
Guidance regarding furloughs is at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance. Although this guidance discusses a shutdown or emergency furlough where the agency no longer has the necessary funds to operate, it also applies in situations where employees are prevented from reporting for work due to a sudden emergency requiring the agency to curtail activities immediately.
Office of Personnel Management guidance for federal departments and agencies as well as for individual employees on personnel practices and continuity-of-operations planning criteria related to pandemic influenza emphasizes the need to carry on the work of the government wherever possible and through whatever means available.
Policies that may be suitable include expanded telework, flexible and compressed work schedules, leave flexibilities, and alternative hiring practices, according to the guidance. In addition, it addresses issues including premium pay, insurance, employee assistance programs, retirement, and other benefits. For example, Federal Employees Health Benefits program carriers are to demonstrate flexibility including the following:
• OPM expects fee-for-service carriers to relax certain provisions such as their pre-certification requirement that the plan must be notified within two business days of an emergency admission.
• OPM expects fee-for-service carriers and HMOs to relax requirements about notification and levels of benefit payment if victims are taken to non-plan and/or non-PPO hospitals or other treatment centers.
• OPM expects all carriers to make certain FEHB members get additional supplies of medications as backup for emergency situations if necessary.
Similarly, it says that the Office of Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance will follow special procedures in a pandemic health crisis and will expedite all life insurance claims related to the emergency.
Employees Exposed to Influenza—Supervisors should consult with their human resources office and follow any public health recommendations or medical advice offered by the employee’s physician when determining whether and when an employee should be allowed to return to work following an absence due to pandemic influenza. See Chapter 5, Sections 1 and 2 for information about leave policies when employees or family members are exposed to pandemic flu or other communicable diseases; also see CPM 2014-13 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals for special considerations regarding sick leave, excused absence, telework and other policies for communicable diseases for which quarantine is deemed appropriate.
Telework—During an emergency situation such as a pandemic health crisis that temporarily prevents you as a teleworking employee from commuting to your regular worksite, an agency may make a temporary exception to the requirement that you must report at least once a week on a regular and recurring basis to your regular worksite and may direct you to work from the telework site for the duration of the emergency. See 5 CFR 531.605(d)(3). In such situations, you would continue to be entitled to the locality rate for your regular worksite as described in Worksite for Location-Based Pay Purposes in Chapter 1, Section 2.
CPM 2009-14 (at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals) emphasized to agencies the availability of human resources flexibilities in a pandemic. It said telework can be used in advance of any formal evacuation orders and requirements to work at home or at an alternative location and stressed the value of having prepared for and tested telework capabilities if an evacuation is ordered.
Evacuation Payments—Rules at 5 CFR 550.409 permit an agency to order its employees to evacuate from their worksites and perform work at home during a pandemic health crisis. The agency may designate your residence (or an alternative location mutually agreeable) as a safe haven and provide evacuation payments under 5 U.S.C. 5523. As an evacuated employee, you may be assigned to perform any work considered necessary during the period of evacuation without regard to your grade, level or title, so long as you have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform the assigned work. Your failure or refusal to perform assigned work may be a basis for terminating evacuation payments, in addition to disciplinary action. Also see Evacuation Payments in Chapter 1, Section 4.
Special Allowances—Regulations at 5 CFR 550.409(b) permit the head of an agency to grant special allowance payments, based upon a case-by-case analysis, to offset the direct added expenses incident to performing work from home (or an alternative location mutually agreeable to the agency and the employee) during a pandemic health crisis.
For More Information—OPM guidance and other information is at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pandemic-information and in CPM 2010-02 and CPM 2014-13 at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.