For federal employees facing hurricane threats, agencies have a number of flexibilities for accommodating those in range of the natural disaster, Office of Personnel Management Director Jeff Pon reminded agency heads in a Sept. 13 memo.

OPM issued its final regulations for weather and safety leave April 10, which gives agencies the authority to grant special leave to federal employees who “cannot safely travel to, or perform work at, their normal worksite, a telework site or other approved location because of severe weather or another emergency situation.”

Such leave counts as paid time off and is used in conjunction with an operating status announcement issued by the employing agency. OPM issues an announcement when the inclement weather threatens the Washington, D.C., area.

Weather and safety leave is not applicable to employees that are approved to telework and are safely able to do so during the inclement weather.

OPM also has the power to establish an Emergency Leave Transfer Program in the event of a major disaster or emergency declaration by the president, which would give unaffected federal employees the opportunity to donate annual leave to employees adversely affected by the storm.

Agencies have to report the need for an ELTP to their headquarters, which then works with OPM to establish the program.

For feds ordered to evacuate for their own safety due to the storm, agencies also have the authority to authorize “evacuation payments,” which include advance payments, continuation of pay and payments for travel and subsistence expenses.

“Use of the evacuation payments authority is discretionary. The head of an employing agency or designated official must make the determination that an employee was officially ordered or authorized to evacuate,” Pon wrote in the memo.

The leave regulations also encourage agencies to use telework as a tool to keep the agency operating while employees may be unable to get to the office.

“Agencies should continue to promote and incorporate telework into their agency emergency planning. We strongly encourage agencies to take steps to ensure that telework-ready employees are prepared to effectively telework and have access to agency IT systems and networks, as may be necessary, should an emergency or weather condition so warrant,” Pon wrote.

According to the memo, employees should contact their agency human resources for more information.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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