Administrative leave will help employees look after loved ones or their own health during coronavirus crisis, department says.
The State Department is allowing its workforce to take up to 10 hours per week of paid administrative leave, saying the move will allow employees to look after children and their own safety.
As much of the department’s workforce reports remotely due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, State will enable employees to take paid time off without tapping into their personal or sick leave. Several agencies around government have loosened their leave policies to enable workers required to continue reporting to their work stations to take time off to care for loved ones or out of fear for their own safety, but State is further allowing its employees who are home to step away from their duties each week without penalty.
“To help address the need for greater flexibility for the State Department workforce, Secretary [Mike] Pompeo has authorized employees to receive up to 10 hours of administrative leave per week for childcare, eldercare, or other health and safety reasons related to COVID-19,” a department spokesperson said.
The Office of Personnel Management previously released guidance instructing agencies to allow teleworking employees to care for children forced to stay home during school closures. Federal employees are usually prohibited from working remotely if they also have to look after loved ones. State, like all agencies, has instructed managers to “maximize telework opportunities.”
“Measures like telework, social distancing, limited visitor access, and the aggressive cleaning plan for State Department buildings are part of our strategy to keep all State Department employees safe,” the spokesperson said.
The Transportation Security Administration last month told managers to offer safety leave in 14-day increments to any employee who felt uncomfortable coming into work to ensure "they have time to assess their health status and coordinate personal and family matters." That led to hundreds of frontline screeners calling out and fears the agency would no longer be able to support airport operations. Thousands of Internal Revenue Service employees are currently home on paid administrative leave because the agency does not have telework capacity for them.
The Veterans Affairs Department has quietly issued a memorandum to executives instructing them to allow employees ineligible for telework to take paid leave if they need to be home with children whose schools or daycares are closed. The leave can be approved in 15-day increments and also applies to employees subject to shelter in place orders or who have "known contact and direct exposure" to COVID-19. The Defense Department last week issued guidance stating that any employees who are not able to telework and cannot access their worksites should receive safety leave. The U.S. Postal Service is only granting the administrative leave to employees ordered to quarantine themselves by a public health official.