IRS Employee Emergency News - Coronavirus FAQs

 

These FAQs are provided for employees who are temporarily unable to access the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer during that closure, contact your manager for information and to request Weather and Safety leave.

Travel

​Only mission-critical travel is recommended at this time. Employees should talk with their supervisors about all business-related travel.

Business Operating Division Commissioners or highest level leadership are encouraged to consider the factors set forth in the OPM Memo dated March 14, 2020.

​Yes, as of 3/06/2020 all international travel has been immediately cancelled. Please check with your manager as appropriate.

All arrangements and location of training (including virtual classes) should be communicated to you by the training coordinators. You should receive an email notification if any plans or arrangements are updated or modified.

Federal employees should seek medical advice if they get sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. You must notify your manager as soon as possible regarding the circumstances involved. Employees who, under the direction of local or public health authorities, are under quarantine or isolation and who are asymptomatic (do not exhibit signs of illness) may be eligible for weather and safety leave if they are unable to perform work at an approved location (i.e., the telework site) during the period of quarantine or isolation. Additional information can be found on the CDC Travelers Information website.

Any IRS employee who has been to the areas of concern within the past 14 days or CDC recommended period, is requested to contact Situational Assessment Management Center (SAMC) via telephone at 866-216-4809, email to samc@irs.gov or through the Incident Entry Form when they return home and before returning to work. SAMC will notify the Infectious Disease Reporting Protocol (IDRP) Program Manager who will provide a plan of action should an employee develop symptoms of an infection and coordinate for medical clearance (as appropriate) for the IRS employee to safely return to the workplace once the recommended monitoring period is complete.

Leave

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

Yes, you may request weather and safety leave as you are defined as “high risk” due to pregnancy. Submit Form 10837, Request for Weather and Safety Leave Due to Emergency Conditions, or other documentation, per the National Agreement, Article 36, subsection 15.B. (for bargaining unit employees) and per Interim Guidance Memorandum HCO-06-0118-2018, Weather and Safety Leave (for non-bargaining unit employees). Weather and safety leave may be granted on a case-by-case basis, and if approved, is posted to OFP code 990-59513, Office Open, Cannot Safely Report. 

Note: Some of the steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

Yes, you may request weather and safety leave. Submit Form 10837, Request for Weather and Safety Leave Due to Emergency Conditions, or other documentation, per the National Agreement, Article 36, subsection 15.B. (for bargaining unit employees) and per Interim Guidance MemorandumHCO-06-0118-2018, Weather and Safety Leave (for non-bargaining unit employees). Weather and safety leave may be granted on a case-by-case basis, and if approved, is posted to OFP code 990-59513, Office Open, Cannot Safely Report. 

Note: Some of the steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

​If local travel restrictions have been issued, and employees are prevented from safely traveling to work and, you may request weather and safety leave. Managers may also approve weather and safety leave on a case by case basis for employees who have been identified as a higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19 by the CDC (e.g., pregnant). Submit Form 10837, Request for Weather and Safety Leave Due to Emergency Conditions, or other documentation, per the National Agreement, Article 36, subsection 15.B. (for bargaining unit employees) and per Interim Guidance MemorandumHCO-06-0118-2018, Weather and Safety Leave (for non-bargaining unit employees). Weather and safety leave may be granted on a case-by-case basis, and if approved, is posted to OFP code 990-59513, Office Open, Cannot Safely Report.

​Employees may request leave, other paid time off (e.g., previously earned compensatory time off, credit hours), leave without pay, or advanced leave if unable to report to their worksite due to caretaker responsibilities.

​Yes, employees can request weather and safety leave based on the general principle that weather and safety leave may be allowed in circumstances where an employee’s travel to or performance of work at the regular worksite would pose significant safety risk for other persons.  Weather and safety leave authorized under this condition is posted to OFP code 990-59513, Weather and Safety Leave – Office Open, Cannot Safely Report.

If the employee’s office is open and the employee is asymptomatic (healthy) and not quarantined or isolated, and the employee has not been identified as being at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19 (see CDC High Risk Complications and CDC Special Populations), the employee should report to the office unless otherwise directed by their manager. Where appropriate, non-telework employees will be placed on Weather and Safety leave. 

​Employees may request leave, other paid time off (e.g., previously earned compensatory time off, credit hours), leave without pay, or advanced leave if unable to report to their worksite due to caretaker responsibilities.

​There is no cap on the number of hours that may be granted as weather and safety leave as long as the requirements for it to be granted are met. 

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

Submit Form 10837, Request for Weather and Safety Leave Due to Emergency Conditions, or other documentation, per the National Agreement, Article 36, subsection 15.B. (for bargaining unit employees) and per Interim Guidance MemorandumHCO-06-0118-2018, Weather and Safety Leave (for non-bargaining unit employees). Weather and safety leave may be granted on a case-by-case basis, and if approved, is posted to OFP code 990-59513, Office Open, Cannot Safely Report. 

​Employees who are not telework eligible and are both asymptomatic (healthy) and quarantined or isolated under the direction of local or public health officials, may be authorized weather and safety leave. Note: Weather and safety leave may only be authorized during periods of quarantine or isolation directed by a local or public health authority if an employee is asymptomatic. Weather and safety leave authorized under this condition is posted to OFP code 990-59513, Weather and Safety Leave – Office Open, Cannot Safely Report.

Reservists or National Guard members are potentially eligible for an additional 22 days of Military Leave (Emergency Military Leave) on a case-by-case basis. Orders must be submitted to the Military.Deployment.Program@irs.gov for review and approval. If approved, the employee is entitled to up to 22 days per calendar year, minus any time they may have used in calendar year 2020. To be eligible for military aid to enforce the law, Reservists and National Guard members must perform military duties supporting civil authorities in protecting life and property. If you have questions or need more information regarding military leave contact Military.Deployment.Program@irs.gov

Yes. Military leave is defined as the authorized absence of an employee from official duty to perform active military duty, active duty for training, inactive-duty training, funeral honors duty, or to engage in field or coast defense training. An employee on military leave under 5 USC 6323(a) receives full civilian salary as well as military pay. The employee is entitled to up to 15 days per fiscal year minus any they may have used in FY2020.

Yes, those populations that the CDC has identified as being at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19 (see CDC High Risk Complications and CDC Special Populations may request weather and safety leave if they are not eligible to telework and their condition prevents them from safely traveling to or performing work in the office.

An employee who is symptomatic (ill) or who is receiving a medical examination or treatment may request to use sick leave, other types of leave, or paid time-off as appropriate. If an employee’s family member is symptomatic (ill) or receiving medical examination or treatment, the employee may request sick leave for general family care, or other types of leave, or paid time-off as appropriate. 

If using sick leave for general family care, there is a limit of 104 hours for family care and bereavement purposes and a limit of 480 hours for care of a family member with a serious health condition per leave year. There is no limit to the amount of accrued sick leave that may be used for self-care. See IRM 6.630.1, Absence and Leave, and National Agreement, Article 34, for more information including how to request and use sick leave. 

​No. Sick leave would be used to cover such a period of sickness. Managers must grant sick leave when an illness such as COVID-19, prevents an employee from performing work. See IRM 6.630.1, Absence and Leave for further information.

According to CDC recommendations, and just like with any sudden fever or respiratory illness, if someone is feeling sick, they should stay home and contact their health care provider. It's far more likely the illness is caused by a typical respiratory virus or influenza. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing symptoms that include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, and has been in contact with someone infected with the COVID-19 virus, you should seek medical care right away and avoid contact with others.

Once an employee becomes symptomatic, they should request sick leave or other appropriate leave. Managers should visit the iManage website for managerial guidance on COVID-19.

Facilities

Employees performing mission critical work may still be required to report to the worksite. If you have questions about whether to report to the office, please contact your manager. 

​We’ve expanded guidelines to allow greater access to hand sanitizers and similar items to assist our employees, and our FMSS teams have been working hard to obtain these wherever possible despite wider supply shortages.

​Janitorial contracts are being modified to include specific disinfecting requirements in cases of COVID-19. FMSS is following CDC guidance and discussions are taking place regarding cleaning requirements recommended prior to reoccupancy if there is a building shutdown.

Note: Some of the steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

At this time there are no plans to modify employee cubicles or the mail room. I would recommend that you talk with your manager and input an ERC ticket. The FMSS Project Manager for the space should be able to help provide options for the existing layout so social distancing is maximized.

Note: Some of the steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

Some sites have been able to rapidly modify contracts and several sites have successfully exchanged non-critical work (such as window cleaning) to make time for increased sanitizing efforts, however, not all sites have successfully negotiated and implemented these contract changes. Please use the ERC ticket program to document and request support in a specific workplace. ERC tickets are the best way to get local attention to problems and track the response and progress until resolution.  

​There should be hand soap in every restroom at all times. If you find a restroom that does not have hand soap readily available, please submit an ERC ticket immediately. If a ticket is not submitted, and employees go directly to building maintenance or management staff, FMSS cannot track the issue and ensure the facility is maintaining the dispensers.

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

To facilitate hand sanitation, IRS facilities have been provided with wall-mounted or stand-mounted alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers. Refills for existing dispensers should be requested by submitting an ERC ticket to Facilities Management and Security Services (FMSS) for purchase. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, sanitizer may be on back order but will be delivered as soon as the IRS receives it. Local offices and business units are responsible for installing the refills in existing dispensers.  Business units can purchase disinfectant wipes directly using their credit card.

FMSS is following guidelines that remind us to not underestimate the power of cleaning to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus as well as other pathogens. Routine cleaning, to remove dirt and soil that harbor germs and viruses, is being done with green low odor products. EPA registered products effective against the coronavirus are being used including disinfectant wipes. Sprays are only permitted for use by janitorial staff.  If an employee has a respiratory sensitivity to a product, they should submit an ERC ticket immediately. Options such as changing the product or changing cleaning schedules may be identified that will resolve the problem. 

Incident reporting

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

​Please follow Infectious Disease Reporting Protocol as provided on the COVID-19 website. Managers should be reporting the situation to higher leadership as well. Situational Awareness Management Center (SAMC) instructions are also provided on the COVID-19 website along with a short instructional video.

​If any employee is tested for COVID-19 and receives a confirmed positive, the Senior Commissioner Representative (SCR) will work directly with that building's business unit leadership and communications will be issued as necessary.

Managers are asked to report a confirmed or suspected disease through the Situational Assessment Management Center (SAMC) via telephone at 866-216-4809, email to samc@irs.gov or through the Incident Entry Form.

After you notify your manager, follow the CDC preventative guidance. Employees who are well, but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and refer to CDC guidance for how to conduct a risk assessment of their potential exposure. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing symptoms that include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing, and has been in contact with someone infected with the COVID-19 virus, you should seek medical care right away and avoid contact with others.

Other

​All employees are to continue to follow the CDC guidance about COVID-19 to prevent illness and recognize symptoms. If not feeling well, stay home, or go home immediately if you are at work, and call your health care provider for medical advice. As soon as you are able, contact your manager.

We encourage all Bargaining Unit employees to enroll in the Emergency AtHoc System to receive Agency updates. Enrollment is mandatory for Non-Bargaining Unit employees.

Another great resource will be the IRS.gov Employee Emergency page. This is accessible on our external website and will include important updates as well.

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, disregard these steps.

To help manage our usage to enable more employees to work remotely while maintaining the best performance, we ask you take the following measures: 

  • You can help minimize the effect on ERAP by taking the following actions:   
  • Do not use video. 
  • Avoid screen sharing, particularly in large meetings. If you need to share materials, ask the      host to upload them to the meeting event. (Example: for a Skype PowerPoint presentation, the presenter should choose Share PowerPoint Files, not Share your Desktop). 
  • Instead of Skype or WebEx, use the 312-777-1455 teleconference bridge for voice-only meetings, Access the internet for mission-critical needs only.
  • Connect to your internet provider through wire/cable instead Wi-Fi, when possible.
  • Leave your laptops connected to receive pushes during off-hours.
  • Do not use a hotspot.

The Service has ended walk-in and in-person appointments with taxpayers at our Taxpayer Assistance Centers, protecting both taxpayers and our employees. Walk-in services with the Taxpayer Advocate Service have also ended, though phone operations continue. 

Note: Some of the steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network.

The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available to help you cope with any stress or anxiety you may have concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. You can contact EAP at any time—day or night by calling 800-977-7631 (TDD: 800-697-0353).

HCO has a special webinar and slides available called “Coping with Uncertainty About the COVID-19 outbreak” on the IRS Source COVID-19 Resource page. 

You can visit the CDC COVID-19 outbreak webpage, which includes information and resources to cope with this stress and ensure your mental health.    

Continue monitoring this page for new updates.  

For mission-critical operations that require people to be in a campus or work setting, we will be immediately reducing staffing by approximately 50 percent to enhance social distancing. 

As a federal agency vital to the overall operations of our country at this difficult time, we are not able to simply shut down our operations. For mission-critical operations that require people to be in a campus or office work setting, we will be immediately reducing staffing by approximately 50 percent to enhance social distancing. Where appropriate, employees who are not telework eligible will be placed on Weather and Safety leave. 

Note: Some of the steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

Yes, managers may expand, temporarily, flexible time bands for the purpose of earning credit hours for employees on flexible work schedules. On a week day, maxiflex employees can earn up to two credit hours and flexitour and gliding employees can earn up to three credit hours. On non-workdays, employees can earn up to 10 credit hours. This means if employees want to work in the morning, in the evening, or on the weekend to account for time away during the regular work day, they may earn credit hours and use them as needed. Along those lines, managers are encouraged to support employees who want to change their type of alternate work schedule or tour of duty. Employees must submit Form 10911, Alternative Work Schedule & Staggered Work Schedule Request, to you for approval. Employees are expected to request appropriate leave (paid or unpaid) for any time throughout the work day that they are providing care for their dependent/family. 

​Questions are not being deleted, however, as we receive new or updated information we take them down temporarily. Once the answer is updated, it is published as an FAQ again. This ensures employees are provided with the most accurate information in a timely manner.

Per the Center for Disease Control (CDC), events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out following the guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene, and social distancing.  When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.

​Business units program leaders should be providing any direction and/or modifications to program related processes or policy. Please consult with your supervisor.

 BlackBerry AtHoc is a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (*FedRAMP) certified notification tool used by many federal government agencies including the Department of Defense (DOD). FedRAMP requirements include additional controls above the already strict NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) baseline controls governing information security requirements for federal agencies. These additional controls address the unique elements of this system to ensure all federal data is secure. For more information about FedRAMP please visit www.fedramp.gov.

*FedRAMP is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services. 

​Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

Business Units may purchase anti-bacterial wipes and are being asked to keep them near shared equipment. Hand sanitizer dispensers are located for common use as federal purchasing requirements do not allow for personal use items such as individual sized hand sanitizer bottles to be purchased. Refills for dispensers are ordered using an ERC ticket to FMSS.  Refills are ordered immediately however, due to the pandemic, the refills are sometimes on backorder. 

​At this time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend protective gear for the general public. CDC recommends surgical masks for people who are ill to wear if they must leave their home for a medical appointment. If CDC or local guidelines change and recommend protective gear for specific situations or events, the IRS will supply the item(s).

The IRS Dismissal and Closure Procedures provide comprehensive guidance for office closures, including leave and telework provisions from the National Agreement and IRS policies. These procedures continue to apply in this situation.

The COVID-19 page has posters and print information available to download. Your business unit should feel free to download the notices from the site and post in your work areas. Hand sanitizer will be provided and dispensers refilled as soon as the IRS can obtain it. Hand sanitizer is currently on back order, however, soap and water are available in all PODs and employees are encouraged to wash their hands often. 

​Please remember this is also the season for flu, colds and allergies depending on where you reside. Please be considerate of others and if you have concerns, please elevate them to your manager to address as appropriate.

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

​IRS Health Services Flu Vaccination information.

CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help mitigate the spread of respiratory diseases.  Find a list of these preventive actions at CDC Prevention and Treatment Actions.

Employees' questions should be directed to their manager. Bargaining unit employees may also contact NTEU.

C&L and FMSS shared information (TV message and flyers) with our campus contacts for the Campus TVs (and flyer distribution).  

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

To find the latest information, visit the COVID-19 page on IRS Source.

Note: The steps described in this answer require access to the IRS network. If your office is closed and you don’t have authorized access to an IRS network-connected computer at this time, contact your manager.

To find the latest information, visit the COVID-19 page on IRS Source and iManage.

General Information