Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced legislation Thursday that would increase teleworking participation for employees at federal agencies amid proposed reduction of such options by the Trump administration.
“Instead of instituting mindless, sweeping bans on telework participation, agencies should be expanding teleworking options. Telework is supposed to be a tool for promoting government efficiency, performance, and emergency preparedness,” Connolly said in a statement regarding the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act (HR 6551).
“Federal government telework programs not only improve productivity, but also save taxpayer money by increasing efficiency, strengthening employee retention and reducing costs for federal office space, as numerous studies have demonstrated,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “We must push back against the Trump Administration’s repeated attacks on federal telework programs, which make our government work better for the American people.”
According to a press statement provided by the congressmen, the legislation aims to do five things:
1. Improves agency efforts to establish and achieve goals for telework participation.
- Requires agencies to set annual goals for telework participation as part of their agency telework policy. Goal reporting is spotty at best. Mandating that goals be part of the agency telework plan would improve agency goal setting and reporting.
2. Improves the achievement, tracking, and reporting of telework cost savings.
- Requires OPM to establish uniform guidance for agencies on how to collect information on, set goals for, and report cost savings achieved through telework.
- Requires agencies to set goals for and report on cost savings achieved through telework.
These are both things OPM is either doing in practice or tries to do on an ad hoc basis. We are simply codifying them pursuant to a GAO recommendation.
3. Prevents changes to telework policies that reduce agency telework participation.
- Prohibits agencies from instituting agency-wide ban on any category of telework (1-2 days per pay period, 3 or more days per pay period, etc.). This would prohibit anti-telework policies like the ones announced for the Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture, which place blanket restrictions on telework frequency.
- Requires agencies to notify OPM and Congress of any plans to reduce telework. An agency must justify the reduction and explain how it will pay for any lost cost savings. We must improve transparency around agency decisions to limit telework.
4. Prevents backtracking on the progress the Federal government has made increasing the government-wide telework participation rate from 14% in FY2012 to 22% in FY2016.
- Requires OPM to include in its annual report a plan to keep government-wide telework participation above a floor of 22%.
5. Clarifies the definition of telework
- Clarifies the definition of telework to include full-time telework. Resolves a discrepancy between the 2016 and 2017 data calls for the annual OPM Report on the Status of Telework in the Federal Government.
Text of the legislation is available here.