By Deborah Hopkins, December 11, 2019
‘Tis the season. Yes, the holidays are upon us and there are lights and ornaments and Christmas trees everywhere you look. But it’s also the season of snow, sleet, and ice in many parts of the country. And with that, it’s a good time to review OPM’s newish guidance on weather and safety leave, last updated in its Governmentwide Dismissal and Closure Procedures in November 2018 and based on the Administrative Leave Act of 2016.
FELTG readers understand the federal government’s vital business must continue without compromising the safety of its employees and the general public. And while some agencies can shut down for a day or two with no real harm, other agencies absolutely must stay operational no matter what’s happening outside.
Read the procedures for yourself here, but below are some highlights and reminders:
- First, make sure you know your agency’s procedures about what is expected of you when operating status announcements are issued. Also, be sure you know where to look for operating status alerts. Is it the OPM website, your agency’s website, your local Federal Executive Board, your email, or somewhere else?
- It’s also important to understand which flexibilities are available to you during specific agency operating procedures, such as unscheduled telework, unscheduled leave, leave without pay, an alternative day off, etc.
- An agency may grant paid weather and safety leave when it is determined that employees cannot safely travel to or from, or safely perform work at their normal worksite, a telework site, or another approved location because of severe weather or another emergency situation. The cause could be weather, an earthquake, a terrorist attack, or any other situation that causes a danger to employees. There is no annual limit to paid weather and safety leave – it’s all up to Mother Nature.
- Employees who are set up to telework are generally excluded from receiving weather and safety leave. Because this leave is explicitly granted when travel is dangerous, and employees who telework do not have to travel, they are expected to work as regularly scheduled. There are exceptions if, in the agency’s judgment, the telework-capable employee could not have reasonably anticipated the severe weather or other emergency condition and, therefore, did not take home needed equipment or work.But in general, telework-eligible employees are expected to anticipate telework days if the forecast makes weather-related leave likely
- Employees on preapproved leave may not receive weather and safety leave even if their colleagues were granted the leave. That means if you used 40 hours of annual leave to escape the cold and go on a cruise, and that same week there is a snowstorm where you live and work and your colleagues get 16 hours of weather and safety leave because the roads are snowed in, you still have to use all 40 hours of annual leave. If you’re on leave, whether in or out of town, you don’t get the benefit of the snow days.