Legislators seek guaranteed time off for COVID vaccinations

Members of Congress from districts with high federal employee populations have called on the Office of Personnel Management to issue a mandate that government agencies approve administrative leave for employees that need to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

“We must continue to do all that we can to ensure federal employee safety,” Reps. Don Beyer, D-Va., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., David Trone, D-Md., Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., Anthony Brown, D-Md., and Jamie Raskin, D-Md., wrote in a Feb. 5 letter to the acting director of OPM.

“Mandating that federal agencies provide administrative time to get vaccinated is a necessary step, and allowing a couple additional days of paid sick leave for any post-vaccination symptoms is common sense.”

Current policy for granting administrative leave stipulates that the leave must be directly related to preserving the agency’s mission.

“The health and safety of federal employees is absolutely paramount to the mission of every federal agency,” the representatives wrote.

“Our federal employees have been challenged throughout this pandemic by adjusting their jobs to work under these strenuous circumstances. Ensuring an environment for employees to easily vaccinate is the fastest way for federal agencies to be to able to function at in their most productive level.”

Many federal employees working in health-care-centered roles may already have received vaccinations, though some have complained that the process for receiving them was not planned with such employees’ workplace needs in mind.

According to Centers for Disease Control guidelines, phase 1b of vaccinations — which many states are beginning to operate under — does include certain essential frontline workers in government, such as national security and U.S. Postal Service workers.

Washington, D.C., guidance lists “essential employees in federal government agencies” as part of their phase 1c tier 3 vaccination plan.

That said, federal employees that are able to completely execute the requirements for their job while teleworking may end up in a lower vaccination tier, as returning them to the workplace is not considered as essential as it is for other roles that cannot be performed at home.

Employees that have chronic medical conditions or are 65 and older may also end up getting vaccinated earlier than their job category warrants.

All 2021 federal employee health insurance plans are required to cover COVID vaccinations without cost sharing.

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