Peters and Ernst Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Transparency and Oversight of Federal Telework

WASHINGTON, D.C.  U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Joni Ernst (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation to increase transparency and oversight of federal telework policies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, agencies maximized federal employee use of telework, and following the end of the public health emergency have shifted to a return-to-office transition. The senators’ bill would require agencies to gather quality data and monitor how telework impacts agency performance and federal property decisions, creating more transparency and providing oversight to weigh the pros and cons of telework policies. 

“Federal agencies must track and consider the impact of telework on their ability to deliver services, recruit and retain talent, and ensure office operations are cost-efficient,” said Senator Peters. My bipartisan bill will require agencies to gather accurate data on telework policies to provide more transparency and help ensure federal agencies are effectively carrying out their missions for the American people.” 

“For too long, Americans have been on hold while bureaucrats phone it in,” Senator Ernst said. “Since ‘temporary’ telework policies went into effect over four years ago, the remote lifestyle comes at the expense of the people federal agencies are meant to serve. My bipartisan bill will provide full transparency into the inefficiencies of telework, so taxpayers are no longer on the hook for expensive wasted space at federal headquarters and misspent locality pay.” 

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) currently publishes an annual report on agency telework practices, but the data is over a year old by the time it is reported. In addition, agencies have a hard time collecting accurate and consistent data on telework, as OPM notes in its most recent telework report for Fiscal Year 2022. There must be significant improvements to this data collection for the federal government to better understand the effects of telework on achieving agency goals. 
The bipartisan Telework Transparency Act will make federal telework policies transparent by requiring agencies to make policies publicly available online. The legislation will also require agencies to establish automated systems to track employee use of telework. Agencies must also monitor office building utilization and the effects of telework on agency performance, including customer service, backlogs and wait times, cost to operations, security, management of real property and personal property, technology investments, and recruitment and retention. The bill directs OPM to establish quality data standards and compile the data in a centralized location to ensure transparency for the American people.