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Youngkin 'very pleased' with telework response

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Gov. Glenn Youngkin shakes hands with Del. Kathy Byron, R-Bedford, on Tuesday, after ceremonially signing a bill for which she was a patron. Youngkin actually already had signed the bill, which deals with reforms at the Virginia Employment Commission.

RICHMOND — Gov. Glenn Youngkin isn’t having second thoughts about his new policy on telework to push state employees back into the office early next month, but the General Assembly wants to know how many employees have been working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve been very pleased with the response to our telework policy,” Youngkin said after a ceremonial bill signing Tuesday.

But the response hasn’t been positive from many state employees, according to the Virginia Governmental Employees Association and eight Democratic legislators, including seven in the Richmond area where the bulk of the state’s 122,000 public employees live.

The VGEA and legislators have asked the governor to delay implementation of the new policy until after Labor Day to reduce disruption for state employees — especially parents — who had built their schedules around expanded use of telework during the pandemic.

The Department of Human Resources Management doesn’t know how many employees have been working remotely since the pandemic began 27 months ago.

Before, only about 25% of the work force were eligible to work remotely and of that number, only 19% had permission to telework.

But the pandemic turned that upside down as state government shut down most of its offices and allowed employees to work from home unless they performed essential jobs that had to be done in person.

The proposed budget agreement that went before the General Assembly on Wednesday requires the personnel agency to report to the legislature by Nov. 1 on how many people worked remotely from March 2020, when the pandemic began, through July 4, the day before Youngkin’s new policy takes effect.

The budget provision also requires the department to report how many employees receive approval for telework under the new policy and for how many days per week, as well as the percentage of the state workforce they represent.

The policy — which the Youngkin administration announced May 5 with a two-week deadline for employees to ask for permission to telework — would let executive branch agencies approve only one day of telework per week for employees. Requests for more than one day of telework would require approval by either a Cabinet secretary or the governor’s chief of staff, Jeff Goettman.

Youngkin endorsed a tweak of the policy by his administration to let employees who are parents apply for additional telework days this summer.

“We are making some I think very appropriate accommodations for folks with kids who have child care issues and need to work through them,” he said.

Otherwise, Youngkin heralded the policy as “a path back to normalcy.”

“I think this is a very natural and good process that will in fact restore an office-centric environment but, oh by the way, make telework accommodations for those who need them,” he said.


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