More feds will telework under new law

Telework Improvements Act gets thumbs up on second vote

Teleworkers of the world rejoice! House lawmakers have passed a bill to expand the number of federal employees eligible to telework.

The Telework Improvements Act of 2010 (H.R. 1722) requires every federal agency to designate a telework managing officer as a liaison between supervisors, managers and employees, and ensure that employees are notified about grievance procedures for telework disputes. The bill would also make telework a central part of federal agencies’ plans for dealing with natural or manmade emergencies.

According to the office of Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), a cosponsor of the bill, the legislation would:

  • Instruct the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to develop a uniform, governmentwide telework policy for federal employees and require that office to gather governmentwide data on federal telecommuting.
  • Provide telework training and education to both employees and supervisors.
  • Require the Government Accountability Office to evaluate agency compliance; to be compliant, agency employees authorized to telework would have to be permitted to do so for at least 20 percent of the hours worked during every two administrative workweeks.

“I believe this legislation is necessary so that a formal telework policy can be enacted across the federal government and sustained into future administrations,” Sarbanes said in a statement.

Related stories:

Are qualified feds being denied teleworking opportunities?

Telework remains out of reach for many feds, survey shows

Telework: Senate gives unanimous thumbs up

Telework: Report tells tale of operational benefits, management resistance

The House bill passed July 14 was amended from a previous version that failed on a vote in May. The bill now must be reconciled with a similar measure already approved by the Senate.

National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley applauded passage of the legislation. “Increasing federal telework saves gas, reduces road congestion and improves work-life balance,” Kelley said in a statement, referencing some of the benefits that advocates say an expansion of telework would bring to the government.

A recently released survey from OPM found less than 10 percent of feds who were queried said they telework at least one day per week. Twenty-three percent of those respondents said they didn’t telework because they weren’t allowed to, despite having jobs amenable to teleworking.

In April 2009, the Obama administration advised agencies to increase federal teleworking opportunities by standardizing their policies, appointing telework managing officers and creating appeals processes for employees whose requests to telecommute are denied.

About the Author

Ben Bain is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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