Telework Frequently Asked Questions

What is telework?

Telework is a flexible work arrangement where employees perform their job duties at an approved alternate worksite. 

Who is eligible to telework?

Position eligibility for telework is determined by the essential functions of the position and how many hours of work must be accomplished at the agency worksite during the typical bi-weekly pay period.

For incumbent employees to be eligible to participate, the employee must have a performance plan in place and be performing at least at the fully successful level and participation is not expected to diminish organizational performance.

How many days a pay period can an employee telework?

The number of hours that an employee is required to perform work at the agency worksite may vary and is determined by assessing several key elements involving the position, organizational/business needs, and the employee. Per OPM requirements, teleworking employees must be scheduled to report physically at least twice each bi-weekly pay period on a regular and recurring basis to the agency worksite.

Is there an exception to the twice per period reporting requirement for teleworkers?

Under limited and temporary circumstances, a supervisor may permit an employee to telework without returning to the office twice per pay period, such as in a situation where an employee is temporarily recovering from an injury or other medical condition but is expected to return to a normal telework schedule upon recovery.

What hours am I expected to work?

Work schedule and hours should be discussed with and approved by a supervisor. See Alternative Work Schedule for more information.

Who has the discretion to determine telework eligibility and approve telework requests?

An employee’s request for workplace flexibilities, to include telework, may be approved as submitted, modified, or disapproved by their supervisor.

First-line supervisors are responsible for determining eligibility for workplace flexibilities, including telework, given their familiarity and awareness of the relative portability of each employee’s duties and responsibilities and the regularity by which the employee must perform work onsite. This eligibility determination will be the first step in the approval process. First-line supervisors must then obtain concurrence from Division Director (or equivalent) and IC Executive Officer (or their designee) before finalizing workplace flexibility decisions, to include remote work.

For more information on your IC-specific policy, please contact your Workplace Flexibilities IC POC.

Is there a limit on the amount of people who are telework eligible within an office/division?

There is no official cap on the number of employees who are telework eligible within an office or division. Position eligibility for telework is determined by the nature of work and how many hours of work must be accomplished at the agency worksite during the typical bi-weekly pay period.

However, during the implementation of the HHS Workplace Flexibilities policy, Division Directors (or their equivalent) and Executive Officers (or their designee) may require review and concurrence of telework eligibility decisions and ensure that first-line supervisor decisions for similarly situated employees are being made in an equitable fashion.  The EO will have ultimate authority for ensuring equity across the IC.

For more information on your IC-specific policy, please contact your Workplace Flexibilities IC POC.

Is there a waiting period or time in grade requirement that must be met in order to telework?

There is no official waiting period in policy that must be met in order to telework; however, individual organizations may determine that establishing a waiting period in a new position (ie. 30 days) is necessary for business reasons. Furthermore, eligibility is not tied to individual’s series or grade. Eligibility for telework is connected to the nature of the work and level of onsite presence required.

Note that to be eligible for telework, the employee must have a performance plan in place and be performing at least at the fully successful level and participation is not expected to diminish organizational performance.

Can a telework agreement be terminated?

Yes, a Workplace Flexibilities Agreement (WFA) for telework may be terminated by the supervisor or the employee at any time. Reasons for termination may include circumstances where the arrangement is no longer conducive to the business needs of the organization, the employee’s performance diminishes, or the employee no longer wants to work from the approved alternative worksite.

A WFA can be terminated by the supervisor under these circumstances:

  • If telework diminishes employee or agency performance, even after attempts to mitigate such diminishment have been attempted.
  • If an employee does not comply with the terms of the WFA agreement.
  • If the employee is disciplined for misconduct, receives a performance counseling memorandum and/or is on an Opportunity to Demonstrate Acceptable Performance

Does an existing telework agreement (Workplace Flexibilities Agreement) transfer with an employee, if they take a new position?

No. Approval of a workplace flexibility agreement for telework is based on a supervisory determination of the nature of the work, and how many essential functions of the position require onsite presence. Transferring to a new position would require a new workplace flexibilities agreement with the new supervisor.

Can an employee telework with a dependent in the household?

Telework is not a substitute for dependent care. Employees may not telework with the intent of or for the sole purpose of meeting their dependent care responsibilities while performing official duties. While performing official duties, teleworkers and remote workers are expected to arrange for dependent care just as they would if they were working at an agency worksite; however, telework may be used as part of a more flexible work arrangement.

If the employee has been officially disciplined how does this impact eligibility?

An employee is considered not eligible for telework if:

  • The employee has been officially disciplined for being absent without leave for more than 5 days in any calendar year or;
  • An employee has been officially disciplined for violations of subpart G of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch for viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography, including child pornography on a Federal Government computer or while performing Federal Government duties.

What rating level of diminishing performance will end the WFA? Is this a level 2?

For incumbent employees to be eligible to participate in a WFA for telework, they must be performing at least at the fully successful level (Level 3). If performance has diminished below the fully successful level (overall Level 3) while on a telework agreement, management must work with their assigned Employee and Labor Relations Specialist to determine appropriate action which may include termination of telework.  

What evidence will be required to support the performance assessment that ends a telework WFA?

The supervisor must provide written notice and documentation to the employee if a rating on any critical element is below Level 3: Achieved Expected Results.

Will Employee and Labor Relations need to concur as they do now with a performance assessment which results in the termination of a WFA?

Yes, coordination with the Employee and Labor Relations Office is required if there is risk of termination of a WFA for performance reasons. Per PMAP Policy, whenever supervisors observe employee performance that is less than the Achieved Expected Results level on any critical element, they must promptly initiate appropriate action such as counseling, increased feedback sessions, developmental opportunities, and assistance from the Employee and Labor Relations Office. 

Can supervisors/managers telework while their staff are onsite?

Eligibility for telework is based on the essential functions of the position and how many hours of work must be accomplished at the agency worksite during the typical bi-weekly pay period. Review and concurrence of telework eligibility and approval for supervisory employees while their staff is onsite would rest with Division Directors (or their equivalent) and Executive Officers (or their designee).

For more information on your IC-specific policy, please contact your Workplace Flexibilities IC POC.

Does this guidance apply to contractors?

This guidance is intended for Federal employees. Workplace Flexibilities Eligibility for contractors is a separate determination based on agreement between the contracting supervisor, federal supervisor, and contractor.

Does this guidance apply to Fellows?

The HHS Workplace Flexibilities Policy applies to all Federal employees. Thus, the policy applies to Title 42 Fellows who meet the definition of a Federal Employee, per 5 U.S. Code § 2105.

Can I telework or remote work from an international location? What about Hawaii or a U.S. territory outside the continental United States?

Federal employees are prohibited from “teleworking” from an alternative location outside of the continental United States without official approval from the employee’s agency and the Department of State. Working for a Federal agency overseas is defined by the Department of State as Domestic Employees Teleworking Overseas (DETO). DETO arrangements are rare in the Federal Government due to increased security concerns and costs to employing agencies. HHS will consider requests on a case-by-case basis. Please refer to the DETO webpage for more information. However, DETO rules do not apply to employees working from a U.S. Territory. U.S. Territories are not foreign countries, and do not fall under State Department Chief of Mission authority. Teleworking from a U.S. Territory would fall under Department and Agency telework guidance.

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