The prospects for Snow Days for most Federal workers may be melting away in the Washington, D.C. area even as the 2021 winter season stays stormy, and the COVID-19 pandemic persists.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released a memorandum on Feb. 10 encouraging Federal departments and agencies to review its Government Dismissal and Closure Procedures guidance.

“Although many Federal employees are in a ‘maximum telework’ posture due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is still extremely important for agencies to communicate expectations to all employees prior to an emergency,” the memorandum states.

In winters past, OPM would give the alert to send Federal employees home early or delay their arrivals to the office – allowing employees to stay safe from harsh weather conditions and enjoy a minimal reprieve from work duties – but the transition to telework means that reprieve may be put on ice as the new normal settles in.

The culprit: employees who are teleworking – presumably from home – don’t have to travel to work in the first place.

“To illustrate the importance, I am providing an example of a recent snowstorm that occurred in the Washington, DC, area,” the memorandum says. “The operating status announcement provided a two-hour delayed arrival with the option for unscheduled leave and unscheduled telework. Employees in a ‘maximum telework’ posture continued to work their regular hours since they were not impacted by the emergency.”

In this instance, emergency employees were still expected to report to their worksite and were not designated to receive two hours of weather and safety leave, unless otherwise directed by their agencies. Employees not designated as emergency employees and who still reported to their worksites were permitted to arrive two hours late, but OPM emphasized that it’s important for all employees to understand “which human resources flexibilities are available to them during each type of operating status.”

Further, OPM says that departments and agencies should consult with appropriate contracting officials to ensure that contracts requiring onsite performance have a contingency plan in the event of closures at the Federal level.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.
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