The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reached an agreement with the union representing agency employees for policies governing the return of employees to traditional offices in what amounts to a larger hybrid work-location approach.
That move is taking place under an agreement between the EPA and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and employs a phased approach for employees to return to their traditional offices while incorporating a hybrid work environment for employees to work remotely.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the agency and the union, the reentry phase for returning to office features, among other items:
- Employees may voluntarily reenter EPA facilities without restriction to occupancy density and will not be coerced into volunteering;
- Bargaining unit employees (BUEs) may work with their supervisor to establish a start date for their new telework agreement unless performing in-person mission critical work or facilities-related work; and
- Employees may request telework based on their personal situations and/or COVID-19 levels.
“The workforce of the future will rely heavily on technology to facilitate effective communication and collaboration for individuals who may not be occupying the same physical workspace, and so the Agency will continue to leverage technology to support a hybrid workplace,” the MoU said.
The MoU also leaves space for COVID testing policies if community infection levels reach medium or high levels. Employees not fully vaccinated as per the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force will have to participate in the Agency Screening Testing Program.
“Following months of negotiations, we are proud to reach an agreement that will give EPA employees the flexibility we need to prioritize our health and safety, as well as that of our communities,” said AFGE in a statement. “We fought to ensure this agreement reflected the voices of workers and remained in line with the mission of our agency: to protect human health and the environment.”