Senate passes telework bill

Late Monday, the Senate voted on and unanimously passed telework legislation which had been held up for more than a year.

The 2010 Telework Enhancement Act (S. 707), sponsored by Sens. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, is designed to expand telecommuting opportunities in the federal government by making employees presumptively eligible and requiring agencies to take a number of actions to expand their telework programs.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the bill last May, but a jurisdictional debate over a Patent and Trademark Office provision held up the legislation.

"I am pleased the Senate unanimously approved this bill to create robust telework programs in the federal government," Akaka said. "This winter's snowstorms highlighted the need to develop flexible work arrangements to make sure the government can function during disruptive events. The bill requires agencies to create telework policies and incorporate those policies into their continuity of operations planning."

Voinovich said the bill will not only allow federal employees to work during weather-related or other emergencies, but also will appeal to a new generation of workers. "The federal government must acknowledge that the next generation of employees will have different expectations of what it means to go to work," he said.

The bill would also allow agencies, with the approval of the General Services Administration, to create travel expense pilot programs to accommodate teleworkers.

Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange, applauded Congress for its leadership on telework initiatives and said she hoped this legislation is the foundation for more workplace flexibilities.

"This bill will ensure that agencies are behind telework, resources are allocated, training is offered to managers and employees, and technology is made available," Auten said. "As a result, teleworking will save time and money -- something all taxpayers want to hear."

The House failed to pass a similar telework bill recently, coming short of the two-thirds majority necessary to pass under suspension. Supporters of that bill have said it will be brought up again for a vote under normal House rules and has the simple majority necessary to pass.

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