Washington—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today urged State Department leadership to support employees amidst the challenges of COVID-19. In a letter to Undersecretary of State Brian Bulatao, Engel underscored the need for clear administrative policies to protect Department personnel from health risks posed by the pandemic.
“The Department and its people are in the center of an unprecedented global crisis. Your employees need to know that the Department will be flexible, responsive, and sensitive to the pandemic’s impact on them and their families, including on leave and telework policies,” he wrote.
Full text of the letter can be found here and below:
Dear Under Secretary Bulatao:
I recognize that the global novel coronavirus pandemic poses an enormous challenge for our diplomats and policy makers serving on the front lines. As the Department works to adapt its staffing posture to the current crisis, I urge you to ensure that clear leave and telework policies are applied in order to respond to employees’ needs, including to allow for administrative leave.
I understand that the Office of Personnel Management has granted agencies increased flexibility with regard to leave and paid time off, and I ask you to ensure the Department fully avails itself of these options. I welcome efforts by the Department to explore alternative duty systems or other measures to share the burden of in-office work during a pandemic in a way that minimizes individual employees’ risk exposure.
Many employees who have already exhausted their annual or sick leave, particularly working families who used that leave to support the birth and care of children, will need additional support during this crisis. I urge you to consider granting paid leave or excused absences to these employees for time spent on caretaker responsibilities and allow increased flexibility in working hours. I assure you that Congress will ensure that budget supplementals will support these efforts.
The Department and its people are in the center of an unprecedented global crisis.? Your employees need to know that the Department will be flexible, responsive, and sensitive to the pandemic’s impact on them and their families, including on leave and telework policies. I appreciate your efforts to this end, and I welcome further dialogue with you on this matter.?
ELIOT L. ENGEL
U.S. Agency for International Development
Chief Executive Officer
U.S. Agency for Global Media
Chief Executive Officer
Millennium Challenge Corps
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