The Department and Bureaus must achieve two equally important goals: (1) protect the Federal workforce and (2) ensure the continuity of operations. During a pandemic, personnel who provide critical and essential functions for DOI, will be as likely to become ill during a pandemic as the general public. (A Federal planning assumption states that rates of absenteeism will depend on the severity of the pandemic, and in a severe pandemic, absenteeism may reach 40 percent during the peak weeks of a community outbreak.) Bureaus and Offices should ensure the fulfillment of these two goals through a variety of means, including pay, scheduling and staffing flexibilities, voluntary telework arrangements, and designating an employee's home as a “safe haven” for the purpose of receiving “evacuation payments.”
Each Bureau and Office is responsible to design, update, and carry out comprehensive plans to take into account and respond to the threats that its employees are most likely to face. These plans must include lists of essential personnel, and contingency plans to provide back up of any personnel whose absence would pose a threat to public safety or would significantly interfere with the ongoing response to the pandemic. Sources for back-up personnel could include reassignment of personnel from non-essential programs within the Department or Bureaus, retired personnel and/or private-sector personnel with relevant expertise. These plans interact with and impact human capital management. Bureau managers should be familiar with the many human capital resources and flexibilities that exist to assist managers and employees in an emergency.
Human capital planning and preparedness encompasses the following areas, and highlights of these topics are listed below:
As part of the Human Capital Planning for Pandemic Influenza, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has established a website which contains Policy Guidance on Human Capital Management, Telework Guidance, Questions and Answers and Fact Sheets to assist HR Professionals, Agencies, Managers, and Employees in addressing and responding to issues involving continuity of operations should there be a pandemic. Any DOI/Bureau guidance specifically addressed in this document would take precedence over any OPM guidance.
1. Agency Planning & Readiness
A pandemic will most likely require designation of emergency employees or special categories of employees; adjustments in work schedules; use of special compensation tools and flexibilities; or temporary staffing arrangements. Department and Bureau managers should be fully informed and understand human capital tools, flexibilities, and strategies; review regularly and update human capital information and resources to assure that the agency's policies remain current and relevant to changing environments and evolving threats; conduct regular exercises and simulations to ensure employees have a clear understanding of what they are to do in an emergency; maintain protocols for designating and activating special needs employees; and develop, review, and update emergency guides as needed.
Bureaus and Offices have the authority and responsibility to identify and designate those personnel that they judge to be critical to operations in any given emergency situation, such as a pandemic, that prevent employees from reporting for work.
There are no standard definitions or categories in this regard, and Bureau and Office heads (or their designees, as applicable) are free to make such determinations based on the organization's unique mission requirements and/or circumstances. Such designations should be part of a Bureau's emergency response/continuity of operations plans and should be made in advance to those so designated, so that they can be prepared to support and sustain agency operations in an emergency.
2. Dismissal & Closure Procedures
OPM's "Washington, DC Area Dismissal or Closure Procedures" provides guidance for handling emergency situations that prevent significant numbers of employees from reporting for work on time or which require agencies to close all or part of their activities. These procedures are available on OPM's Web site (www.opm.gov).
Federal Executive Boards and Federal Executive Associations coordinate similar dismissal or closure procedures in other major metropolitan areas.
Because a pandemic will likely severely impact the Department's ability to perform mission responsibilities, Bureaus and Offices need to develop specific dismissal and closure procedures for their organizations throughout the country.
Employees should be familiarized/educated on the specific procedures that have been put into place at their Bureau or Office related to dismissal/closures, as well as the means of notification that a Bureau or Office will use to inform and instruct them in these situations. Communications with employees may include town hall meetings, electronic messages, letters, or memorandums.
Bureaus and Offices need to develop a protocol for safety and security personnel to maintain communications in an emergency. Department of Interior Personnel Bulletin Number 06-02, dated October 12, 2005, provides guidance on “Excused Absences in Emergency Situations”. Additional information is available on the section of the OPM Website providing guidance on operations during a crisis or emergency; the link is https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pandemic-information/work-hiring-arrangements/telework-guidance/telework-emergency-preparedness/.
3. Annual, Sick, and Family Medical Leave
When waves of pandemic have reached communities where DOI employees work/reside, employees could likely start demonstrating influenza or influenza-like symptoms in the workplace. Bureaus should ensure policy provides provisions for removal (i.e., sick leave, administrative leave, or modified work site) of an employee from the normal work environment where they might be a possible source of infection to co-workers or the public. In this event all leave policies (and leave provisions in collective bargaining agreements) remain in full force and effect. Employees who are incapacitated from performing their duties may use all available leave, i.e., accrued/advanced sick, annual/compensatory time earned/credit hours earned as well as leave without pay. Employees may also use available leave or leave without pay (Family Medical Leave Act [FMLA]/Family Friendly Leave [FFL]) to care for a family member who may become incapacitated due to the pandemic situation.
Management retains the authority to place an employee on enforced sick leave if the employee reports for work and is not physically ready, willing and able to perform work or otherwise poses a danger to themselves and/or others. In limited circumstances, management has the authority to place employees on excused absence (also called administrative leave) for short durations.
Applicable collective bargaining agreements must be followed. In addition, normal pay and leave provisions apply.
Information along with links to specific guidance on leave programs can be found through the following resources:
4. Payroll & Personnel Tracking
At DOI, the National Business Center (NBC) provides automated personnel and payroll cross-servicing to all DOI organizations. During a pandemic, customer questions and concerns should be directed through NBC's network of help desks, on-line help capability, training, user manuals and Payroll Operations Division (POD) staff concerning input and validation of Time and Attendance reports. In addition, Bureaus and Offices need to refer the guidance from the POD for procedures for submitting, adjusting, and reconciling time and attendance reports.
During a pandemic, payroll providers are required to provide personnel tracking data to OPM after the end of each pay period; this information includes the total number of Federal employees employed by the Department, the total number of hours of paid leave and unpaid leave during each reporting period.
5. Compensation & Pay Flexibilities
Bureaus and Offices are responsible for the proper administration of laws and regulations governing pay and pay flexibilities. Bureaus and Offices have the authority and responsibility to establish work schedules for their employees within general legal and regulatory guidelines. Most Departments and Agencies are required to comply with Title 5, United States Code, and OPM's regulations when establishing regularly scheduled administrative workweeks for their employees.
The work schedule for most employees is determined in advance, and temporary periods of extended work hours in emergency situations are usually quite different than the employees' regularly scheduled administrative workweek. Bureaus and Offices must schedule or reschedule an employee's regularly scheduled administrative workweek so that it corresponds with the employee's actual work requirements for specific number of days and hours per pay period.
Managers need to be aware of policies on ordering and approving overtime and compensatory time off in lieu of overtime pay. Additionally managers need to know when employees are eligible for, or entitled to Holiday premium pay, Sunday premium pay, and Night pay. Sections V and VI of OPM's Guide for Human Capital Planning for Pandemic Influenza at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pandemic-information/ provides discussion and additional links for guidance.
Bureaus and Offices have the discretion to excuse employees from duty without loss of pay or charge to leave in response to emergency situations. Bureaus and Offices may also grant excused absence (administrative leave) to employees who are requested to assist in emergency law enforcement, relief, or clean-up efforts in affected communities, as authorized by Federal, State or other officials having jurisdiction. Bureaus will need to approve employee participation in these emergency situations.
Bureaus and Offices may authorize advance payments, evacuation payments, and payments for travel and subsistence expense to employees who are ordered to evacuate from an area because of imminent danger to their lives as a result of an emergency situation.
Various policies on compensation and pay flexibilities Bureaus may use during an emergency can be located on OPM's website for “Information for Federal Pay and Leave at http://www.opm.gov/oca/ or OPM's Human Capital Planning for Pandemic Influenza at http://www.opm.gov/pandemic/index.asp. The “Handbook on Pay and Leave Benefits for Federal Employees Affected by Severe Weather or other Emergencies” can be located on the OPM Website at http://www.opm.gov/oca/compmemo/2005/2005-18hb.pdf.
6. Evacuation Payments
If the pandemic is affecting a particular area where DOI employees work, Bureau and Office officials may order an evacuation upon official announcement by Federal, State, or local officials, public health authorities, and/or Tribal governments. DOI believes combining evacuation payments and telework will reduce the need to use excused absences (i.e., “administrative leave”), which should be regarded as a last resort in dealing with a pandemic health crisis. To promote “social distancing”, employees may be required to work from a “safe haven,” such as home or an alternate location mutually agreeable to the supervisor and the employee. In these situations, employees would receive evacuation payments - evacuation pay is based on an employee's regular rate of pay, including allowances, differentials, and other authorized payments and may continue for up to 180 days. Additional special allowance payments may be granted to offset direct added expenses incidental to an evacuation. Full Interior policy guidance can be reviewed at Personnel Bulletin Number 07-01.
7. Telework Policy
It is the policy of the Department of Interior to provide eligible employees opportunities to work at alternative worksites when it is consistent with the mission of the organization and budgetary supportable. This policy is designed to promote telework as a flexibility for managers and employees and to complement Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans. Bureaus should ensure that employee telework agreements are accurate, completed, signed and that the agreements outline the terms and conditions of the telework arrangement. During emergencies, Bureaus should communicate with employees working at alternate worksites, and ensure that employees are kept informed regarding dismissal or closure procedures.
The Department's Telework policy is contained in Personnel Bulletin No. 05-02, dated February 18, 2005 and is located on DOI's website. Additional telework information is located https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pandemic-information/work-hiring-arrangements/telework-guidance/telework-emergency-preparedness/.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Service Administration (GSA) have established this joint web site on Telework to provide access to guidance issued by both agencies, including information for employees considering teleworking (or are already doing so), for managers and supervisors who supervise teleworkers, and for agency telework coordinators. The site is located at: http://www.telework.gov/. Additionally, OPM's Pandemic Influenza web site provides information intended to help Federal managers and employees understand how to make telework a routine part of doing business, as well as how to integrate telework into planning for an emergency including a pandemic health crisis. OPM has included on the Pandemic Influenza website “A Guide to Telework in the Federal Government”. It is included to ensure material is comprehensive for agency use in preparing for pandemic influenza. The link to this information is http://www.opm.gov/pandemic/agency2a-guide.pdf.
8. Staffing Flexibilities
To ensure the continuity of operations of DOI's critical and essential functions, Bureaus and Offices may utilize a variety of staffing flexibilities to fill emergency or special staffing needs by considering excepted appointments; reemploying annuitants; reemploying buyout recipients; direct-hire authority; contract employees; competitive service appointments of 120 days or less; and Reemployment Priority List (RPL). In addition, current DOI employees may be assigned any work for which they have the appropriate knowledge, skill or ability, without regard to the employee's grade or title.
Current policy guidance issued by the DOI's Office of Human Resources can be found at https://www.doi.gov/pmb/hr. Additional information regarding staffing flexibilities is available on OPM's website at http://www.opm.gov/pandemic/
Information is organized by corresponding part number in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). OPM's Web site has fact sheets, regulations, and other information at http://www.opm.gov/employ/html/sroa2.asp regarding appointing authorities.
9. Fitness for Duty Policy
Many organizations employ physician or have Occupational Health units primarily involving the evaluation of physical fitness, the provision of initial treatment of on-the-job illness or injury, or the performance of pre-employment examinations, preventive health screening, or Fitness for Duty examinations. Bureaus and Offices need to develop policy for employees to be evaluated when it is suspected that they may be unable to safely perform the duties of their position. OPM has developed guidance Bureaus/Offices can use when assessing the medical condition of an employee. Guidance is available on OPM's website at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pandemic-information/.
When an employee is injured on the job or claims a work related illness or injury, they should be referred to the Department's/Bureau's Workers Compensation Program. Workers' compensation benefits are available to employees and their families if an employee is injured or killed on the job. Compensation benefits are administered by the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. All related medical costs are covered in full. Information is available in the “Workers Compensation Guidance for Department of Interior Personnel” at https://www.doi.gov/hrm/DOI_CA_810_FINAL_082407.pdf.
Employees in medical surveillance positions may be directed for a Fitness for Duty examination if the employee's health condition creates a danger to himself or others. Employees not in medical surveillance positions may be offered a Fitness for Duty examination (Reference: 5 CFR Part 339).
As described in Section 5.4 of this plan, DOI's interim prioritization scheme is located in Appendix G. Those DOI personnel supporting COOP and other Mission Essential Functions, as well as those performing emergency services, critical infrastructure, and critical homeland and nation security services are among those included in the priority groups for receiving pandemic vaccination.
COOP team members will be required to be vaccinated or take a full prescribed course of anti-viral medications (prophalyxis) prior to entering the Departmental alternate locations. In addition, these personnel are required to a health screening to ensure they are not infected/infectious. Employees will also need to quarantine themselves at home prior to deploying to the COOP sites, or once at the COOP sites, in their room/quarters for until it is determined for sure that they are free of influenza. Any employee who does not do these actions will not be allowed into the Departmental COOP sites.
Information about the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) and injury compensation is located in Department of Interior guidance previously identified and on the Department of Labor's website at https://www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/. Both sites provide a wealth of information about benefits and coverage under the FECA including, from the standpoint of the injured worker and the employing agency, the employing agency's responsibilities with respect to injured employees, as well as addresses frequently-raised issues related to FECA in question-and-answer format. In addition, OPM's website on Human Capital Planning for Pandemic Influenza has information on workers' compensation.
10. Grievance Policy
DOI recognizes that dissatisfaction and disagreement may arise during work and emergency situations. A grievance policy has been established, and Bureaus are responsible for issuing implementing instructions. Employees retain the right to pursue grievances/complaints concerning dissatisfactions with working conditions or adverse management decisions (e.g., leave approval/disapproval; work assignments, etc.) (References: 370 DM 771; and applicable collective bargaining agreements). Policy guidance is located on the DOI website at 370 DM 771. (As of 07/2007 the DOI policy is currently being reviewed).
Bureaus are required to negotiate with recognized unions concerning policies, practices, and other matters affecting the working conditions of represented employees. Close coordination between the local servicing Human Resources Offices and the pertinent labor organizations (unions) is paramount. Local unions must be kept informed of proposed changes to policies and practices (whether temporary or permanent) affecting working conditions of employees to the maximum extent practicable during the pandemic situation. However, if required by the situation, Bureaus have the authority to take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out the agency's mission during an emergency (5 USC 7106(a) (2) (D)). References: Chapter 71 of Title 5, U.S. Code; and applicable collective bargaining agreements.
11. Family Assistance Program
The Department of the Interior administers a variety of family-friendly programs; further information on guidance and policies related are located on the Office of Human Resources archive website.
At OPM, Work/Life programs and policies are designed to create more flexible, responsive work environments supportive of commitments to community, home, and family members. OPM partners with other Federal agencies to develop and manage Work/Life programs that meet the human capital needs of the Federal workforce; and provide the policies and guidance that form the foundation of these programs. For additional information, refer to the OPM's Work/Life website, http://www.opm.gov/Employment_and_Benefits/WorkLife/index.asp.
Additionally, various leave flexibilities are permitted to accommodate family situations. Bureaus and Offices should review appropriate policies when developing guidance for family assistance during emergency situations such as a pandemic.
12. Benefits Issues
Neither details nor extended assignments to an alternate worksite have an impact on an employee's retirement, health insurance, or life insurance benefits. Employees covered under special group provisions of the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees' Retirement System, such as law enforcement officers or firefighters; continue under the special group provisions while on detail.
OPM has compiled a guide concerning what employees and their families need to know about Federal benefits during an emergency. During an emergency, OPM will operate a Federal Employee and Retiree Emergency Information Center. Contact information and emergency information will be posted at the OPM website.
In an emergency situation, Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) continues regardless of the severity of the emergency. FEHB carriers will be asked to demonstrate maximum flexibility under their OPM contract. Fee-for-service carriers will relax certain provisions like pre-certification requirements; all plans will cover treatment outside of plan providers in emergency or pandemic situations; and drug supply limits will be relaxed. Federal Employee Life Insurance Programs will apply expedited claims payment procedures. (Agencies will be advised of procedures that have been put into place). Other insurance programs should continue as normal during a pandemic or other emergency.
Retirement benefits will continue. Applications would continue to be submitted through the Bureau Human Resources offices. In instances where a Bureau HR office would not be available alternate arrangements would be made through the DOI Headquarters.