Three years after the Covid pandemic forced hordes of workers to retreat from the office to their homes and other remote locations, House Republicans have introduced a bill that would require federal employees to return to the office. Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, introduced the Stopping Home Office Work's Unproductive Problems Act, or "SHOW UP Act."
The bill would give any federal employee who worked in offices prior to the pandemic 30 days to return to the office. In November, a survey by Federal News Network found that 60 percent of federal employees were working in a "hybrid" environment, with a third working remotely full-time.
When speaking about the measure, Comer said, "Americans have suffered from the federal government's detrimental pandemic-era telework policies for federal bureaucrats. President Biden's unnecessary expansion of telework crippled the ability of departments and agencies to fulfill their responsibilities and created cumbersome backlogs."
The measure would direct federal agencies to study the impact of remote work on their missions and report findings to Congress. Comer's office said, "The federal government's expansion of telework during the pandemic has delayed critical assistance to veterans, tax refunds, passport applications, and other basic services."
Agencies would also be required to provide data on locality pay that is added to the base pay of federal workers, as many employees may not actually be working from that location at all.
In Washington, D.C., locality pay is a staggering 32.49 percent of base pay.
The bill alludes to the question of how many federal employees who are based in Washington, D.C., are receiving substantial locality pay while living elsewhere and working remotely. The question also extends to federal workers in other locations who may be receiving expensive locality pay for cities in which they no longer live.
The federal Office of Personnel Management in 2021 said that employees who have a "remote work" arrangement and are not expected to come into an office should receive locality pay based on their remote location and not the location of whichever office they work for.
The situation is different for employees with a flexible "telework" schedule, which requires workers to go to the office twice every two weeks. Those employees receive locality pay based on the location of their office, not their remote location.
Due to the difference in the way locality pay is determined and applied, the SHOW UP Act states that agencies must analyze costs related to "paying higher rates of locality pay to telework employees as a result of incorrectly classifying such employees as teleworkers rather than remote workers."
House Republicans aren't the only ones wanting to see federal workers return to their offices. Earlier this month, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser implored President Biden to end telework policies due to the impacts it has had on the city's economy. Many federal office buildings have been sitting vacant due to the policies, and Bowser wants to see the buildings filled with federal employees again or repurposed for other, more productive uses.
The Act would require agencies to assess the cost of "owning, leasing, or maintaining under-utilized real property."
The measure is likely not to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate and never be enacted; however, the concerns it was created to address are valid in a post-pandemic world that has been slow to revert back to what was once expected of employees.
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