New bill would protect federal telework from ‘rollback’
House Democrats Gerry Connolly and John Sarbanes want to save federal telework.
The two introduced a new bill — the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act — to the House on Thursday in a bid to require that agencies continue to support expanded teleworking opportunities moving forward.
The bill is a direct response to new policies at the Department of Education and U.S. Department of Agriculture, both of which recently announced that they are shrinking employee telework availability from four days a week to just one. The decisions drew ire from employees and concern about what the influx of commuters could mean for infrastructure in the D.C. area. Connolly, of Virginia, and Sarbanes, of Maryland, both serve large populations of federal workers who could be affected by receding telework policies.
“Instead of instituting mindless, sweeping bans on telework participation, agencies should be expanding teleworking options,” Connolly said in a statement. “Telework is supposed to be a tool for promoting government efficiency, performance, and emergency preparedness.”
If passed, the bill would require that agencies set telework participation goals and would establish a guide that agencies can use for assessing and reporting telework cost savings. It would also require that the Office of Personnel Management establish a plan to keep telework at its current high of 22 percent, or increase that number. This, Connolly and Sarbanes point out, can prevent backtracking like in the case of the Department of Education and USDA.
Telework isn’t just a cost-saving measure, Connolly and Sarbanes note. Flexible working requirements also have a huge impact on the kind of talent the federal government is able to recruit.
“We are making great progress with widespread adoption of telework in the federal government,” Connolly said. “We cannot go in reverse. Telework is a valuable tool for not only government efficiency, but also recruitment and retention of a talented federal workforce.”
“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,” Sarbanes, who also authored the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, said in a statement.