While a federal government closing announcement means a day off without having to take vacation time for many affected employees, that’s not the case for all of them, and other special policies can take effect, as well.
Under the dismissal and closure procedures for the national capital area — which serve as a model for similar policies elsewhere — on a day when government offices are ordered closed, employees who had been scheduled to telework must do so if possible, or else take annual leave.
Also, “emergency” employees are expected to report to work as scheduled, unless instructed otherwise. There is no standard government-wide definition for who falls into that category. That decision is made agency-by-agency depending on mission needs and other circumstances, and can vary according to the nature of the emergency.
In extended emergencies, agencies can begin calling selected “non-emergency” employees back to work even if offices remain closed in general.
Separate guidance describes special pay and benefits policies that may apply in emergencies, including allowances for employees ordered to evacuate, and additional pay such as overtime or hazardous duty pay. That guidance also covers policies for donating leave to assist employees affected by an emergency, granting excused time off and more.
In June, a government-wide memo told agencies to be familiar with those policies as well as with authorities allowing for charitable solicitations in support of victims in emergency situations and special hiring rules to fill jobs on an emergency basis. Basic benefits such as health insurance coverage for employees and family members meanwhile remain unchanged in an emergency, it noted.
And in September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency released a handbook on emergency preparedness for federal employees in the Washington area. That booklet covers subjects including policies for evacuating buildings or sheltering in place, information about evacuation routes, and personal emergency preparedness.