Feds can still take administrative leave to get COVID-19 booster shots

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force is sunsetting, but federal employees can still take four hours of paid administrative leave to get COVID-19 boosters.

The Biden administration has now ended many of the policies that previously dictated agencies’ health and safety responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. But for federal employees, the administration is still offering some on-the-job flexibility for the foreseeable future.

One of the few remaining policies from a series of 2021 executive orders lets federal employees still take up to four hours of paid administrative leave to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, the Office of Personnel Management said in an April 12 memo.

“The administration strongly encourages federal employees to get recommended doses of updated COVID-19 vaccines even when receiving those vaccines is not a job requirement,” OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said in the memo addressed to agency heads. “Vaccines remain the best tool we have in our toolbox to combat COVID-19. They are safe, effective and free.”

For federal employees, the offered administrative leave will cover the time it takes to get the COVID-19 booster shot, as well as feds’ travel time to and from the vaccination site. As is standard, employees should get approval from their supervisors before taking leave for this purpose, OPM said. Four hours is the maximum OPM is allotting, but federal employees should only take off as much time as they actually need to get the shot.

In a departure from previous OPM guidance, federal employees can no longer take administrative leave when accompanying a family member who’s getting vaccinated, if they experience an adverse reaction to a vaccine, or if they’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and waiting to get tested. In these instances, OPM said employees should now use regular sick leave instead, or some other type of either paid or unpaid leave.

Alongside OPM’s new COVID-19 leave guidance, a memo from the Office of Management and Budget Friday officially brought the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force — and any related guidance from that task force — to an end. OMB initially stood up the task force in early 2021 as a way to ensure a safe and healthy federal workplace and pandemic preparedness.

The administration said although COVID-19 continues to pose health concerns, there’s no longer a real need for a full task force or larger leave policies for federal employees.

Even with the task force now ending, however, agencies should continue to maintain and implement their workplace safety plans, OMB said. Those safety plans were one of the initial requirements for agencies under the 2021 executive orders.

Moving forward, in the absence of the task force, OPM is now taking on the responsibility of considering any further personnel policy or leave changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic or any other public health emergencies.

The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force’s website will remain online, but it’ll no longer be updated, OMB said.

The administration’s sunsetting of the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force also comes almost a year after the White House officially ended the COVID-19 national public health emergency on May 11, 2023.

Around that same time last year, the administration officially lifted a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for federal employees. That mandate, though, was never fully enforced in the first place because it was tied up in various court cases, which blocked most of the requirements.

Regardless, by the start of 2022, 98% of federal employees had already either complied with the vaccine mandate or requested an exemption.

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