Article 20 Telework

    Section 1 - General

A.    The Department and the Union jointly recognize the mutual benefits of a flexible workplace program to the Department and its employees.  Balancing work and family responsibilities, assistance to the elderly or disabled employees, and meeting environmental, financial, and commuting concerns are among its advantages.  In recognizing these benefits, both parties also acknowledge the needs of the Department to accomplish its mission.  The primary intent of the telework program is to support the mission of the Department in an alternative work setting.  Telework must not be used as an alternative to or in lieu of dependent care.  Employees who telework will be permitted to take care of personal matters in the same way as employees who do not telecommute.  The Department Telework Program will be governed by applicable law, government-wide rules and regulations, VA Directives and Handbooks, and this article.

B.    Any Telework Program established under this article will be a voluntary program which permits employees to work at home or at other approved sites away from the office for all or a part of the workweek.

C.    The parties agree that employees participating in telework are performing the same duties as their counterparts working at VA facilities.  In the interest of fairness and equity, employees shall not be disadvantaged on their performance expectations because of their participation in telework.  The Department shall use the same measurements of work for employees who are on telework as are used for those employees who perform those same tasks at their Official Duty Station (ODS).

    Section 2 - Definitions

A.    Telework

The terms “telework” and “telecommuting” are synonymous and include working at home or in satellite office sites or other approved telework work sites.

B.    Alternate Duty Station (ADS)

A worksite other than the employee’s official duty station, such as employee’s residence (defined as a specific room or area within an employee’s primary residence), a telecommuting center, a facility established by state, local, or county governments, private sector organizations for use by teleworkers, or an established satellite location including other VA facilities.  The alternative worksite must be mutually agreeable to the employee and their supervisor.

C.    Official Duty Station (ODS)

A telecommuting employee’s official duty station continues to be the permanent duty station.  Generally, the official worksite for an employee covered by a telework agreement is the location of the regular worksite for the employee’s position (that is, the place where the employee would normally work absent a telework agreement), as long as the employee is scheduled to report physically at least twice a pay period on a regular and recurring basis to that regular worksite.  Employees should refer to 5 CFR 531.605 for application of special situations.

D.   Telework Center

The Department satellite facility that the General Services Administration (GSA) establishes to provide federal employees an opportunity to work at an alternative location that is geographically convenient to the employee’s residence.  The space at the telework center is owned or leased by one or more federal agencies.

E.    Regular and Recurring Telework

Regular and recurring telework means the employee works at an ADS on a regularly scheduled basis (for example, one or more days per week, the second Wednesday of each pay period, Tuesday afternoon, two hours per day, etc.), at a home, a telework center, or other offsite location.

F.     Short-Term or Temporary Telework

Short-term or temporary telework is when an employee is prevented from reporting to the regular worksite due to an injury, recuperation from surgery, etc., for short periods of time (usually no more than three to six months).  Employees participating in this type of telework may work full‑time or may combine part-time work with leave use depending on the circumstances of the individual and the portability/availability of work at the alternative site.

G.    Periodic or Intermittent Telework

Periodic or intermittent telework is ad-hoc in nature and can be used when a project or assignment requires intense concentration or weather conditions are unfavorable.

    Section 3 - Criteria

If employees meet the criteria for telework, the Department may approve their participation in telework arrangements in accordance with applicable law and this article.  Department officials are responsible for determining which positions are appropriate for telework arrangements, consistent with labor relations obligations.  The guidelines for approving telework arrangements are based on, but not limited to, the following:

A.    Work activities to be performed at an ADS must be portable (may be performed away from the traditional worksite, either in whole or in part, and can be evaluated by the supervisor);

B.    The position’s contact with other employees, the supervisor or manager, and serviced clientele is predictable and normally scheduled and can otherwise be accomplished via telephone or videoconferencing;

C.    The technology needed to perform work offsite must be available;

D.   Employees may be linked electronically to the traditional office location by computer or may simply take work to the ADS, requiring no computer;

E.    Privacy Act materials, evidence, or sensitive documents (hard copy or electronic) may be accessed remotely, provided the employee agrees to protect government/VA records from unauthorized disclosure or damage and will comply with the requirements of the Privacy Act and all other applicable federal laws and government-wide regulations and other applicable VA Policies and Directives;

F.     The employee volunteered (or concurred with the supervisor’s recommendation) to perform work at the ADS;

G.    An employee has a “fully successful” (or equivalent) performance appraisal.  If the employee has worked more than 12 months and does not have an appraisal, they shall be assumed to be “Fully Successful” for purposes of telework;

H.   The employee must have a telephone, workspace suitable to perform work, utilities adequate for installing equipment, and space that is free from interruptions and provides reasonable security and protection for government property;

I.      The employee is willing to sign and abide by the Telework Program Agreement concerning participation in the Telework Program.

    Section 4 - Furniture and Equipment

A.    Employees participating in the Telework Program will be provided equipment necessary to perform their duties, consistent with the telework proposal, VA Form 0740a (Oct 2008) and the Alternative Workplace Telework Agreement.

B.    The Department will allow each employee on telework to use an assigned Department computer at the employee’s ADS.  If an employee prefers to use a personal computer, or if a portable computer is unavailable, the Department will load and maintain all software to the personal computer that is necessary for accomplishing the job.  A phone line and portable computer will be provided.

C.    Any time the Department gives up space or otherwise downsizes the office, any excess equipment or furniture may be made available to employees in this program, subject to the limitations of Paragraph A above.  Agreements between the local union and the facility will address how the equipment will be assigned.

    Section 5 - Telework Program Agreement

A.    Prior to participating in the Telework Program, employees will be required to complete, on a one-time basis, a Telework Program Agreement that has been negotiated between the Department and the local union.  A new Telework Program Agreement must be completed if significant changes occur (e.g., change in ADS address/location, change in supervisor, and/or change in official duty station).  Continued participation in telework shall be subject to periodic review by the supervisor for compliance with the requirements of this article.

B.    The Agreement documents a commitment by the employee and the supervisor to abide by the applicable guidelines and must be in place before the employee begins working at an alternative worksite.

C.    Participants may be permitted to work at home or other telework worksites full days or a portion of a day.

D.   At a minimum, Telework Agreements must contain the following:

1.    ADS location such as the employee’s home address or the address of the telecenter;

2.    The location of the ADS must be of mutual agreement to the employee and the Department;

3.    A telework schedule which identifies the days the employee will work each week, pay period, or month.  For intermittent arrangements, the agreement should prescribe the procedures that will be used for approval of specifically requested days to be worked at the ADS.  Agreements for short term/temporary use should identify the time period (from/to date), number of days, and hours per week or pay period during which work will be performed;

4.    Procedures for administrative processes such as leave approval from the ADS, time and attendance reporting, weather dismissal time and attendance, etc.;

5.    Privacy Act/security provision;

6.    Description of the work to be performed at the alternative worksite that can include specific duties or projects to be completed and any deadlines for delivery that may apply;

7.    Any procedures required for work processes such as a requirement to submit progress reports, submission, and review of completed work, participation in meetings, conference calls, etc.; and,

8.    The duration of the employee’s participation.

E.    Teleworkers must complete and sign the Telework Self-Certification Safety Checklist (VA- 0740b) certifying that the ADS is safe and that all requirements to do official work at home are met.  The employee agrees to permit inspections by representatives of the Department, as required, during normal working hours to insure proper maintenance of any government-owned property and conformance with safety standards.  The employee will be provided advance notice of any inspection.  The local union has the right to be present at the inspection.  The date of the safety inspection will be coordinated between the safety inspector and the employee within five days of the day that the inspection has been determined to be needed.  The date of this inspection will be provided to the local union.

    Section 6 - Hours of Work and Leave

A.    Employees performing work at the alternate worksite will follow established procedures for requesting and obtaining approval of leave, consistent with Article 35 - Time and Leave of this Agreement.

B.    Employees performing work at the alternate worksite are subject to the same maximum workday limits as they would be if they were performing work at their official duty station, consistent with Article 21 - Hours of Work and Overtime of this Agreement.

C.    The number of days each week, pay period, or month an employee will work at an alternative worksite will vary depending on the individual arrangement made between the employee and the supervisor.  Employees may work as few as one day per month or as many as five days per week for full time telework. 

D.   Employees on duty shall be available to participate in regular staff meetings and other meetings necessary to the accomplishment of work; have direct interaction with the supervisor, coworkers, and customers; and access equipment, files, and reference materials not available at the ADS.  Supervisors will consider deviations from this requirement to include such circumstances as accommodating physical disabilities, recovery from illness or injury, field work, etc.

E.    With supervisory approval, employees may choose to change their scheduled work hours, or change to or from an Alternative Work Schedule.  For example, an employee may begin their work at an earlier time when working from home since no time is spent commuting to the worksite.

    Section 7 - Pay Issues

A.    An employee’s pay will not be negatively impacted solely by the employee’s decision to telework.  Overtime pay, premium pay, special salary rate, and other entitlements continue while the employee telecommutes as long as the employee remains eligible under Federal pay laws/authorities for overtime pay, premium pay, special salary rates, and other entitlements.  Employees will be notified by the Department prior to accepting telework of any consequences to their pay entitlements that will result from telework.

B.    The governing rules, regulations, and policies concerning attendance, leave, and overtime are unchanged by participation in telework.  Hours of duty must be addressed in telework agreements.  Employees will be compensated for overtime or night work performed with approval in advance.

C.    To claim expenses related to the business use of part of the employee’s home, the employee must meet specific requirements as found in the appropriate Internal Revenue Service’s publications, currently IRS Publications 17 and 587.  It is advisable to consult a tax advisor to see if a deduction might be available.

    Section 8 - Position Descriptions and Performance Standards

A.    Telecommuting will seldom require changes in position descriptions, but may affect factors such as supervisory controls or work environment.  An employee is not relieved of and is expected to meet the performance standards established for their position at the official duty station.

B.    When there are no employees performing similar tasks at the ODS, the performance standards for telecommuting employees should be results-oriented and should describe the quantity and quality of expected work products and the method of evaluation.

    Section 9 - Temporary Recall from ADS

A.    Employees who are on duty may be required to report to their ODS for previously scheduled training, conferences, other meetings, or to perform work on a short term basis that cannot otherwise be performed at the ADS or accomplished via telephone or other reasonable alternative methods.

B.    Employees may also be required to report to their ODS for valid operational needs to perform agency work which cannot otherwise be performed on another workday, at the ADS, via telephone, or other reasonable alternative methods.  In such cases, employees will be provided reasonable advance notice and be provided a reasonable time to report.  Employees should make every effort to report as soon as possible.

C.    When requiring an employee to report on short notice, the employee’s needs will be considered along with the reason for the change in work location.

    Section 10 - Requests to Telework

The employee will submit a standard request form, Telework Proposal (VA-0740a) for their assignment to be performed at the ADS.  The request will describe the duties to be performed and the specific day(s) involved.  The request will be submitted to the Department for approval.  The Department will document approval or denial of the request as soon as possible.  Employees must make the request to work at the ADS at least one workday in advance; however, this time frame may be waived at the discretion of the Department.  If the assignment is initiated by the Department, and the employee concurs, the employee is still responsible for submitting a Telework Program Work Assignment Request (VA-0870a) in addition to signing the Telework Program Agreement described in Section 5 of this article.

    Section 11 - Removal from Program

A.    The Department may remove an employee from the Telework Program based on the employee’s failure to adhere to the requirements specified in the Telework Program Agreement and/or a decline in overall performance below the fully successful level.  Normally, employees will not be removed from participation for single, minor infractions of Telework Program requirements.  Supervisors will counsel employees about specific problems before effecting removal.  The counseling will be confirmed in writing.  When a decision is made to remove an employee from the Telework Program, the employee must be given written notice indicating the reason(s) for removal.  The employee may reapply for Telework Program participation 30 calendar days after removal from the program, provided that his/her performance is at least fully successful.

B.    Any time an employee believes they need to permanently or temporarily return to work in the ODS, the employee will normally provide the Department with 30 calendar days notice of the needed change, except in emergency situations.  The Department will make reasonable efforts to accommodate the employee’s needs.  Employees returning to the ODS in these circumstances must recognize that the equipment and workstations that are made available by the Department may not immediately be the same as the ones they had prior to participating in the Telework Program.  The Department is expected to provide the employee a complete work area equal or similar to that of others in their occupation in their assigned work area within a reasonable timeframe.

    Section 12 - Problems Affecting Work Performance

Employees will promptly inform supervisors whenever any problems arise which adversely affect their ability to perform work at the ADS.  Examples could include situations such as equipment failure, power outages, telecommunications difficulties, etc.

    Section 13 - Emergency Closing/Group Dismissal

A.    A telecommuting employee will sometimes, but not always, be affected by an emergency requiring the main office to close.  When both the main office and the ADS are affected by a widespread emergency, the Department should grant the telecommuting employee excused absence as appropriate.

B.    When an emergency affects only the ADS for a major portion of the workday, the Department can require the telecommuting employee to report to the main office, approve annual leave or leave without pay, or authorize an excused absence.

C.    The telework site may be unaffected by emergencies that lead to closings and dismissals at the ODS.  If work can proceed at an ADS, then the employee may not be excused from duty just because other employees elsewhere have been dismissed or excused from reporting.

    Section 14 - Telecommuting Centers

The parties agree to discuss the feasibility of telecommuting centers.

Section 15 - Emergency Situations

In the event of a local emergency situation such as a transit strike or a natural disaster which adversely affects an employee’s ability to commute to the workplace, the parties agree to immediately discuss possible temporary telework arrangements for affected employee(s).

    Section 16 - Evaluation of Program

The parties agree to meet six months after the implementation of this Agreement to assess any concerns relevant to employees working at their residence such as availability of laptop computers.

    Section 17 - Union Notification

The local union will be notified when employees are placed on telework and taken off telework.

    Section 18 - Local Telework Negotiations

Upon the effective date of this Agreement, the local parties may begin negotiations over the following issues:

A.    Application and selection procedures for participation in the telework and the alternative work schedule and compressed work schedule.  These procedures may include, but are not limited to, issues such as negotiating procedures for breaking ties if the number of applicants exceeds the number of opportunities available;

B.    Methods for resolving conflicting employee requests for specific work at home schedules;

C.    Methods for rewarding increased productivity of telecommuters;

D.   Procedures for disbursing excess equipment or furniture;

E.    Determining the eligibility of other positions, if any, for telework, alternative work schedules, and compressed work schedules that are not listed as currently eligible for telework;

F.     Determining the feasibility of establishing a local telework committee for oversight of telework; and,

G.    Any other issues affecting the bargaining unit not otherwise covered in this Article.

    Section 19 - Grandfather Clause

On the effective date of this Agreement, employees currently working at an ADS are not required to reapply for telework.

Temporary telework arrangements are appropriate for those employees who cannot report to work due to illness, providing the position held is conducive to telework.  During pandemic, the usual requirements for telework may be waived in order to benefit both the Department and the employee.

An employee eligible under the Department’s Family Medical Leave Program may request to participate in the telework program consistent with Article 20 - Telework of this Agreement.