OPM prepares for ‘above normal’ hurricane season

OPM Director John Berry reminded federal employees of their benefits and other options in preparation for an unusual hurricane season.

By Courtney Thompson
Federal News Radio

The Office of Personnel Management is preparing human capital officers for an above normal hurricane season that may affect work conditions for employees on the Atlantic coast.

OPM Director John Berry wrote a memorandum to remind HR officials about policies that help feds affected during natural disasters. The memo also provided information on telework, hiring and soliciting donations during emergency conditions.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts there will be an increase in the number of storms that could become hurricanes during the season, which lasts from June 1- Nov. 30.

Berry’s memo said that teleworkers may be required to continue work at alternative worksites if possible. OPM recommended that agencies use emergency preparedness plans, and to inform teleworkers in advance through the employee’s telework agreement.

As for hiring, Berry said agencies are allowed to make 30-day appointments, or additional extensions if permitted by OPM, to fill emergency hiring needs. Berry added that agencies also will be able to use direct hire authority in certain medical and technology positions, grade levels and locations.

He added agencies also may rehire annuitants for one year or less without OPM’s approval under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010. Retirees also may be rehired without a dual compensation salary off-set waiver. On the other hand, the number of workers who are reemployed cannot surpass 2.5 percent of full-time workforce nor exceed one percent of the full-time workforce unless an explanation and justification is submitted to Congress and OPM.

Additionally, OPM will let agencies make limited term or emergency assignments of Senior Executive Service members to certain career positions as well as non-career employees to other appointments.

Berry said agencies may use temporary employment firms from the private sector to fill positions for 120 days or more at the discretion of the employer. Additionally, agencies may use competitive service appointments for 120 days or less without clearance from the Career Transition Assistance Program or the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan, which helps agencies to find displaced federal employees who are available for employment.

In some cases, the Code of Federal Regulations lets agencies hire other persons not included in the reemployment priority lists of current and former federal employees that are available for competitive service appointments.

As the director of OPM, Berry can grant permission for special solicitations of federal employees to assist victims of natural disasters and other emergencies. The written request for solicitations will include information about the event and charitable organization.

Berry’s memo also referenced the flexibility in pay and benefits during emergencies as detailed in OPM’s Handbook on Pay and Leave Benefits for Federal Employees Affected by Severe Weather Conditions or Other Emergency Situations.

The guide outlines HR policies for employees prohibited from and required to work in emergency conditions. He also added that NOAA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)are raising awareness to help citizens to protect themselves and their property during natural disasters and other emergencies.


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Courtney Thompson is an intern with Federal News Radio.

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