Federal employees should not be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to office, said a note from the Biden administration seen by Reuters news agency.
U.S. government employees should not be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to their workplaces or disclosing their vaccination status, according to the guidelines to be released by the U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration Thursday.
Workers can voluntarily disclose this information and federal agencies can base their safety protocols on, in part, if employees are vaccinated, the guide said.
In a 20-page appointment seen by Reuters news agency, chiefs of three agencies overseeing the federal workforce also encouraged agencies to consider more flexible arrangements for certain employees, including permanent part-time work at distance and work outside normal working hours.
The orientation comes as several U.S. government employees who have worked remotely during the coronavirus pandemic prepare to return to their offices. It comes the same day that the U.S. Department of Labor issued an emergency rule to protect workers in health care settings.
The federal government employs more than four million people, making it the largest employer in the United States. Nearly 60 percent of federal employees worked remotely during the pandemic, up from about 3 percent earlier, according to Thursday’s note.
The guidance requires agencies to submit draft proposals by next week and more detailed final plans, including the reopening of programs, by July 19th.
The note is signed by the acting heads of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration.
Jason Miller, deputy director for OMB management, said in a statement that the guidance underscores that worker safety is a primary priority as agencies plan to reopen offices.
“This moment in time provides a unique opportunity to look at the role of the federal government as an employer model, as we strive to implement consistent but flexible government-wide practices that foster effective, equitable and inclusive work environments. ”Miller said.
Officials also said the agencies’ “possible post-pandemic operational states may differ significantly from [their] pre-pandemic operational status ”.
That could mean firing some workers from physical offices, allowing agencies to recruit across the country and share the office while decreasing the amount of time employees spend at work, they said.
Officials have warned that agencies may have to deal with unions before implementing certain policies, such as changes in work plans and safety protocols. About 30 percent of federal workers are represented by unions.