Frequently Asked Questions: Working at NIH

If I am a non-emergency Tier II employee, am I permitted to telework for part of the day in the event of a closure, delayed arrival, or early dismissal?

Yes, Tier II employees who are scheduled to telework or who request ad hoc telework in the event of a closure, delayed arrival, or early dismissal may telework for part of the day with permission from their supervisor. Hours teleworked and hours worked at the worksite for the day should add up to your established tour of duty. Tier II employees must submit an ad hoc request in ITAS for the use of unscheduled telework before the close of the pay period.

If I am on an approved adhoc telework agreement what is the expectation for me to prepare for an unscheduled telework day?

As a Tier II employee on an approved adhoc telework agreement, you should prepare for impending closures by bringing home your laptop and any important documents you may need to telework for the entire workday. This will allow you to telework even if you lose internet connectivity. Failure to prepare for an emergency situation is not an excuse to not telework.

When NIH announces that offices are closed, does this mean that I will automatically receive excused absence (administrative leave)?

When NIH offices are closed, Tier I employees are required to arrive at their worksite for their tour of duty on time unless otherwise directed by their supervisor. Tier II employees whose written telework agreements stipulate that they will telework during office closures are required to telework or request unscheduled leave. Tier III employees prohibited from working due to the closure, delayed arrival, or early dismissal will be granted excused absense.

What are supervisors required to do to prepare employees to telework or be telework-ready?

Supervisors should clearly communicate their expectations for teleworkers during an emergency situation. Employees and supervisors should have discussions concerning possible issues that may prevent an employee from teleworking during an emergency closure or dismissal. Furthermore, supervisors are strongly encouraged to allow their employees to telework routinely to ensure there are no equipment or connectivity issues.

Under OPM’s new Federal Office Closure Announcement, will I be required to telework?

If OPM issues a “Federal Office Closed” announcement and you are covered under a written telework agreement and approved for ad hoc telework, you are required to telework on the effective day of the announcement, as required by the written telework agreement. If you are not covered under a written telework agreement, you will not be required to telework and will be granted excused absence. If you are covered under an ad hoc telework agreement and do not telework, you have the option to request unscheduled leave.

Can I be forced to sign a telework agreement in lieu of receiving an excused absence when Federal offices are closed?

No. Your supervisor cannot coerce you to sign a telework agreement to avoid providing excused absence on a day when Federal offices are closed.

Is telework voluntary?

Telework is voluntary, but a written agreement that outlines expectations is required before an employee can participate in telework.

If I am an employee working outside the Washington, DC area (e.g. Frederick, Baltimore, etc.) should I follow the Washington, DC area dismissal procedures?

No. You should consult the following for dismissal and closure procedures:

  • Baltimore, MD – Follow instructions provided by the Baltimore Federal Executive Board Inclement Weather Advisory or local Baltimore radio and television stations

  • Frederick, MD – Follow instructions provided by the Fort Detrick Inclement Weather (Public Affairs Office); call Ft. Detrick 301-619-7611 or toll free 1-800-256-7621, “press *8, 37611#”; TDD 301-619-2293; or tune in to local radio station WFRE 99.9FM

  • Research Triangle Park, North Carolina – Follow instructions provided on the NIEHS homepage; the Junctionweb site; or call the NIEHS Voice Response System at 919-541-1919.

  • Hamilton, Montana – Follow instructions provided at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories web site; contact the RML Hotline at 406-375-9675, or tune into the local radio station KLYQ 1240 AM in Hamilton.

What is the geographic area affected by the Washington, DC Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures?

This dismissal procedure applies to NIH employees with worksites located inside the Washington Capital Beltway and all NIH facilities in Montgomery County.

What are competencies?

Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors that contribute to individual and organizational performance.  Knowledge is information developed or learned through experience, study or investigation.  Skill is the result of repeatedly applying knowledge or ability.  Ability is an innate potential to perform mental and physical actions or tasks.  Behavior is the observable reaction of an individual to a certain situation.  The target proficiency level for each competency will vary based on an individual’s position and the organization’s needs.

Are employees on Maxiflex entitled to night differential?

If an employee voluntarily works before 6 a.m. or after 6 p.m. while on a Maxiflex Work Schedule, they are not entitled to night differential.

How do core hours impact an employee’s leave?

Core hours impact an employees’ leave in several ways. Employees may find that they do not need to take as much leave on Maxiflex because they are able to work additional hours throughout the pay period. Conversely, an employee may not simply record one hour of leave on a day that they have a core hour from 10 am – 11 am. Because an employee must always work or take leave in 2 hour increments, they must take two hours of leave. If an employee will be out of the office for an extended period of time, i.e. a full week, a Leave Approving Official may request that the employee record 8 hours of leave per day.

How do core hours impact an employee’s work schedule under Maxiflex?

During core hours, an employee must be working or on leave. They can be working in the office or at an approved telework location, but they cannot be flexing their schedule to be off. This means that if an employee was previously on a Compressed Work Schedule in which they had Tuesdays off but they are now on Maxiflex and the office has core hours on Tuesdays, the employee must work or be on leave during those core hours.

I tried switching an employee to the Maxiflex Work Schedule but received an error message. What happened?

Ensure that there are core hours established for the employee’s SAC. If not, establish core hours and then try again.

If the employee’s SAC does have core hours established, make sure the hours listed in the Biweekly Distribution of Biweekly Basic Work Requirements at the bottom of the Tour of Duty page have been cleared out prior to going to the employee’s timecard on the “Timecard” tab and clearing it out as well.

How do timekeepers / administrative officers set up an organization's core hours?

Please review the quick reference guide on this topic.

As an employee who works from an alternate time zone, how do I account for my hours of work and ensure I meet core hours?

Employees that work in an alternate time zone and are on a Maxiflex Work Schedule are expected to work (or take leave) during the core hours set by their organization, at the time they are occurring in their organization's time zone. They are expected to record their hours of work/leave using their organization’s time zone.

What do I do during inclement weather if I participate in Maxiflex?

Please review the Maxiflex-specific guidance on inclement weather.

Maxiflex requires that I work or take leave for at least 2 hours if I am recording any hours on that day. What happens if I get to the end of the pay period and have between 78 and 80 total hours?

You have several options.

  • If there are several days left in the pay period, you can work additional hours. You will need to record any time beyond 80 hours as credit hours, if you are eligible.
  • You can extend your work day if you have not reached your IC/O’s total hours cap and are within flexible hours.
  • You can also take leave to reach 80 hours. If you attempt to record less than 2 hours of leave on a day that doesn’t have additional regular hours, ITAS will present an error message.

Note: If you have core hours on remaining days in the pay period, you must work or be on leave during that time.

Under Maxiflex, am I entitled to night differential?

An employee is not entitled to night differential for voluntarily working flexible hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Can I submit future ad-hoc telework requests if I participate in Maxiflex?

Yes.  When putting in future ad-hoc telework requests, you must enter the actual hours you want to telework. To request a full day of ad hoc telework, two requests must be entered in ITAS. The first request is before your meal period, and the second request is after (e.g. 12/03/2020 from 8am to noon and 1pm to 5pm). 

Can I submit multi-day leave requests if I participate in Maxiflex?

Yes.  You can submit multi-day leave requests that are within the same work week by entering the start/stop times and the appropriate range of dates.

Note that multiple weeks of leave should be entered as separate leave requests for each week (e.g. 11/30/2015 - 12/04/2015 and 12/07/2015 - 12/11/2015). A single request for leave from 11/30/2015 through 12/11/2015 would result in leave being requested for the weekend days in addition to the week days.

Can I submit future leave requests on Maxiflex?

Yes. When putting in future leave requests, you must enter the start and end times for the actual hours you want to take leave.

How do I account for my meal period on Maxiflex?

An employee who works 8 or more hours is entitled to a 30-minute, unpaid meal period. If you are required to enter your start and stop times, ITAS will automatically deduct a meal period for you when you enter a total of 8 or more hours. For example, if you enter a start time of 8 a.m. and a stop time of 4:30 p.m. then ITAS will reflect 8 total hours worked. If you are taking an optional meal period when working less than 8 hours, you must reflect this by using a split in your schedule.

Can I certify a timecard prior to the end of the pay period when I participate in Maxiflex?

Yes, a timecard can be certified at any time during the pay period. However, it is strongly recommended that you do not certify your timecard until the end of the pay period. Once a timecard has been certified, you can no longer make changes and must request assistance from your timekeeper.

What is the best time to submit or update my timecard if I participate in Maxiflex?

Employees are strongly encouraged to enter their projected hours of work on the Certify Timecard page in ITAS at the beginning of the pay period. That information can be updated as often as needed until the timecard is verified at the end of the pay period.