Weekly Updates

Returning to the Office, A Campaign to Recognize Great Feds, Admin Leave to Support Voting, and Other Updates

March 25, 2022
IRS Announces Phased Return to Work

This week, the IRS announced that it intends to resume normal operations on June 25th. Executives and managers will return on April 24th to prepare for employees. On May 8th, Phase 1 will begin and all employees with non-portable duties, anyone wishing to return voluntarily, and anyone out of compliance with the Telework Enhancement Act (TEA) will return to the office. Through Phase 1, we will still exercise caution and many covid flexibilities will remain available. Everyone will be expected to report at least once per pay period but we will otherwise follow the maximum telework posture, retain the telework radius waiver, and expanded maxiflex. Anyone who wishes to continue to telework during Phase 1 must complete telework training and execute a formal telework agreement - these are requirements under the TEA.

Phase 2 begins on June 25th and is a return to our new normal. In other words, all covid-related exceptions and flexibilities will end and the Service will resume following its established policies as well as the new 2022 National Agreement. Everyone will be expected to report at least twice per pay period, expanded maxiflex will end, and the 200-mile telework radius will come into effect. Some of you or your staff may need to seek a reasonable accommodation to work from home a bit longer - if that's the case, begin the process as soon as possible. You or your staff may continue to wear a mask - and please be careful when asking about masks. They are a medical device and we must respect wearers' medical privacy. The IRS population had a 91% vaccination rate when we were last provided data - this is great news and will contribute to workplace safety.

Unfortunately, the pandemic is not yet over and we can't know what the future will bring. We may need to periodically flip back to these pandemic protocols if there is an increase in transmission or a new variant of concern. We should still practice distancing and be conscious of hand hygiene to prevent community spread. Most importantly, we must not report to work if we are ill or meet one of the isolation conditions.

As you prepare to return to work, we are here to support you. Please share your questions and concerns with us so that we can relay them to IRS leadership and get you the answers you need.


The Individual and Business Master Files (IMF, BMF) celebrate their 60th birthday this year! PMA wants to help Congress and the American public appreciate how badly the IRS needs modernization funding. Part of our IMF/BMF@60 campaign will feature facts and context to help frame the true age of our primary computing database. As a reminder, the IRS still relies on the oldest continually operating database in the entire federal government.

Nikita Khrushchev, then the leader of the Soviet Union, began constructing the Berlin Wall just five months before the IRS debuted the IMF and BMF. A physical representation of the "Iron Curtain," President Reagan famously demanded the Wall be torn down during a speech he gave in celebration of Berlin's 750th anniversary. His call - "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this Wall!" - was a defining moment of 1987, when the IMF and BMF were already 25 years old. When Germany reunified in 1990, the Berlin Wall was demolished. In 1994, demolition of the Wall was completed and the IRS was relying on a computing database that was 32 years old at the time.

Are You Administering Leave Correctly?

At the Commissioner's request, TIGTA performed an audit of leave usage and released their report last week. TIGTA found that, to the extent leave administration can be automated, the IRS performs very well at adhering to established law, regulations, and policy. However, the administration of Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) has room for improvement. TIGTA found 88% of sampled FMLA leave was mishandled by management and 80% of sampled pandemic-related leave was mishandled by management. 9% of sampled FMLA leave documentation was destroyed prematurely upon the employees' separation from the Service. TIGTA also found that management could do more to monitor for potential misuse of leave.

We anticipate that managers will eventually receive additional training as a result of the audit and we will work with HCO to be sure it is comprehensive. In the interim, we strenuously advise you to work with your Labor Relations Specialist whenever you receive a request for FMLA. Administering leave under FMLA is complex and can be challenging to track because of the limitations of SETR. Please keep in mind that FMLA records must be maintained for three years in a file that is distinctly separate from an employee's EPF. When an employee leaves the Service and you send their EPF to the Consolidation Site, we still must maintain the FMLA record. It is not a part of an employee's EPF and so the retention standard for an EPF does not apply to the FMLA record.

This is a tricky area where we question whether managers should be responsible for administering FMLA. In the private sector, FMLA is typically handled by a human resources department specially trained to meet all of the law's requirements. IRS managers receive FMLA training only once, during Fundamental Management Skills (FMS), a class they may not be scheduled to take until many months or years into their career. We take issue with the IRS's deflection in their response to the audit that leave administration is the manager's responsibility and so falls upon each of you to get 100% right every time. When managers are not receiving timely training, not scheduled for periodic refresher training, unable to receive service from LR, and when BODs are allowed to create their own additional processes, we lose our ability to correctly and accurately administer this complex employee benefit. PMA will continue to advocate for reduced burden on managers so you can focus on leading your team.

Be Featured During Public Service Recognition Week

Public Service Recognition Week is the first week in May. OPM/OMB are coordinating on #GovPossible, a government-wide campaign to recognize great federal employees. Last year, agencies and Performance.gov featured videos and social posts from folks around the country celebrating and amplifying public service!

This year, we want to feature you! Please fill out this brief submission form if you are interested.

We will be accepting submissions through Friday, April 8th for a potential feature in the Public Service Recognition Week/#GovPossible campaign. If selected, someone from the Performance.gov team will reach out and follow up with you. Feel free to share this survey link with your colleagues.

Expanded Voting-Related Admin Leave

President Biden issued Executive Order 14019 in March 2021. This week, OPM announced steps to reduce barriers for Federal employees interested in participating in the democratic process. The updated voting-related administrative leave policy directs agencies to permit the following:

• Agencies should allow employees to use up to 4 hours of administrative leave for voting in connection with each Federal general election day. The administrative leave may be used for voting on the Federal general election day or for early voting (i.e., voting prior to Federal general election day, as authorized by their jurisdiction).

• Agencies should allow employees to use up to 4 hours of administrative leave for voting in connection with each election event (including primaries and caucuses) at the Federal, State, local (i.e., county and municipal), Tribal, and territorial level that does not coincide with a Federal general election day. (If an election simultaneously involves more than one level, it is considered to be a single election event.) This administrative leave may be used for voting on the established election day or for early voting, whichever option is used by the employee with respect to an election event.

• For Federal special Congressional elections not held on the date of a Federal general election, agencies should allow employees to use up to 4 hours of administrative leave for voting. This administrative leave may be granted for voting on the established date of a special election or for authorized early voting in connection with that election.

• Agencies should also allow employees to use up to 4 hours of administrative leave per leave year to serve as a non-partisan poll worker or to participate in non-partisan observer activities at the Federal, State, local (i.e., county and municipal), Tribal, and territorial level. (A “leave year” begins on the first day of the first pay period commencing on or after January 1 of the given year and ends on the day before the first day of the next leave year.) This leave is in addition to any administrative leave an employee uses to vote.

In Case You Missed It

Introduction to PMA's University Partners. PMA has teamed up with American Military University and American Public University, leaders in online education with a strong track record helping federal government professionals achieve their learning goals. In this live presentation, you will hear from a representative of the American Public University System to help you understand your newest membership benefit - reduced tuition and fees for undergraduate and graduate coursework. You can view a recording of this presentation.

Board Informational Session. Would you like to help us make the IRS a better place to work? PMA has an election coming up this spring and we want our members to have an opportunity to learn more about what it means to serve on PMA's National Board of Directors. Contact us if you are interested in learning more about board service.

Join PMA in Celebrating FEEA's 36th Birthday

PMA's official charity, the Federal Employee Education & Assistance Fund (FEEA) is celebrating its 36th anniversary. The Feds In Motion Challenge is all about moving in your favorite way — walk, run, bike, swim, or roll on your favorite route — to reach the goal of 36 miles (or more!) in 36 days. Click here to register for the celebration. If you have coworkers or friends who haven't registered yet, please share far and wide. All are welcome on #TeamPMA and thank you to all who've joined the team so far!

Challenge registrants will receive t-shirts, participation medals, digital bibs, an easy tool to upload your mileage anytime to the leaderboard, digital finisher certificates, fun digital badges for mileage milestones and fundraising achievements, special Wellness Wednesday events with prize drawings, other cool swag from FEEA's sponsors, and prizes for top fundraisers. Be sure to sign up today!

We are also using this as an opportunity to raise some money for FEEA to help Feds in need. Consider making a tax deductible donation.

Weekly updates