Disclaimer: The information contained in this section is “hot off the presses” and so is subject to change and agency interpretation. Please keep an eye on the IRS Source and Leaders’ Alerts to be sure you are following the current guidance. Some of the items below may be subject to bargaining with NTEU which can also leads to modifications. As your association, we feel obligated to provide all the information we have so far even though it may change.
This week, scientists at the CDC released recent science suggesting that breakthrough infections are much more common than previously thought. Earlier this month, there was an outbreak in Massachusetts among 900 people, 75% of whom were fully vaccinated. While the vaccines may not fully prevent infections, they do prevent serious cases and death. We encourage all our members to get vaccinated as soon as possible to be safe.
PMA released a statement earlier in the week when there was talk of a “vaccine mandate” for Federal workers. Yesterday, the Administration announced new policies for the Federal workforce. This afternoon, PMA attended a meeting with OPM, OMB, CDC, and the White House to learn more about what’s to come. The CDC reported that everyone sheds the same amount of virus once infected, regardless of vaccination status. The CDC revised its testing guidance and now recommends all vaccinated people with possible COVID symptoms to get tested.
All Federal workers and contractors will be asked to declare their vaccination status. Those workers who do not wish to share the information or who are unvaccinated will not be permitted to enter the workplace without negative test results (1-2 times per week) and will be required to wear masks.
In the briefing, PMA was informed that you will not be asked to provide proof of your status, you will just share the information and sign an attestation that your statement is truthful. If someone misrepresents their status, they may be subject to disciplinary action for endangering everyone in the building. If you are still working remotely 100% of the time, then you will not be required to get tested. If you work in a location with high levels of community spread, then you will be required to wear a mask in the office regardless of your vaccination status.
Under the plan, the Commissioner must approve any in-person gatherings of more than 50 people. Unvaccinated workers are largely prohibited from traveling unless the travel is mission-critical or in the interest of national security. The agency will be required to provide time off for workers to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects. They will also be required to provide time off so you can help your family get vaccinated and recover. The agency will need to develop a testing program – it might be in the office, or it could be with a third-party facility. The agency will pay any costs associated with this testing.
Please be patient as the IRS receives more direction – this announcement was made yesterday without a lot of planning due to the urgency of the situation. OMB does not have a date as to when it will provide further guidance and it will take time for the IRS to put measures in place. IRS leadership is working around the clock to make a plan for the workforce, and we are here to support them however we can.
TIGTA released an audit report following site visits to several campuses in March 2021. While the report makes no specific recommendations, it did point out many gaps in compliance with masking and distancing rules. Please be sure that you are following the rules set out by the IRS. We also ask you to be sure your employees are following the guidance as well. This can become an area of professional liability, especially if someone were to become ill because of you not following or enforcing IRS safety guidance. We encourage you to read the report because it helps to illustrate some of the common mistakes people are making while in the building.
The guidance provides a view into the future of Federal work. The guidance says agencies should begin to reassess their telework policies based on experiences during the last 15 months and “and re-establish them in a way that best meets mission needs (including the agency’s ability to compete for qualified candidates and retain talent).” Also, “supervisors may see mission delivery, productivity or employee engagement benefits in extending flexibilities related to telework and alternative work schedules.” There is also information about questions on remote work (Home as POD), locality pay questions, and more.
We wanted to be sure you saw the update this week that you must encrypt emails which contain drivers license numbers. The IRS also shared resources to help workers who are struggling with drug addiction, either personally or in their family.
IRS managers can view this recent presentation to help improve your leadership communication style. You can also learn more about how to handle mediations and EEO workplace conflict. EEO issues were in the news this week – 63% of workers who filed an EEO complaint lose their jobs. We must be careful and remember to follow the law – EEO complaints can feel very personal but filing one is every worker’s right. If you receive a complaint and you don’t know where to turn, we encourage you to reach out to your professional liability insurance carrier so they can talk you through the process.
Have you ever worried whether your retirement savings were invested in a way that aligns with your personal values? TSP confirmed last week that their plan to give participants access to mutual funds will include environmentally sustainable options. Wherever you fall along the political spectrum, the changing weather presents new risks to investments. Next year, TSP will more intentionally consider those risks to ensure a more stable return on your savings. If the climate isn’t a concern of yours, As You Sow is a tool to help you identify funds that may align issues that matter to you personally.