OPM tells sick feds to stay home, and telework

Centers for Disease Control

In the face of an unusually brutal flu season, the Office of Personnel Management reminded feds of the many options they have if they do come under the weather.

OPM Director John Berry sent a memo on Jan. 18 to chief human capital officers encouraging agencies to use a number of “workplace flexibilities” if employees get the flu virus. He told feds to look into taking sick leave and using telework options and alternative work schedules to help combat possible downtime from illness. The memo was an update to guidance released in September, when OPM recommended that federal employees and contractors take the flu vaccine to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus.

Berry still emphasized the importance of the flu vaccine in averting sickness. “Vaccination remains the best way to prevent influenza and is recommended for all persons aged 6 months and older,” Berry wrote. “But given current widespread disease, it is also an appropriate time to remind agencies of considerations in the workplace that could reduce the chances of transmission.”

If sick employees do come to the office and pose a risk to other workers, then supervisors have the authority to send them home, the memo said.

The Government Accountability Office released a report in August criticizing some federal agencies for being ill prepared for a pandemic flu outbreak, but noted that many departments had improved their planning since 2009.

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