April 21, 2020

Changes to time-charging

Lynda L Seaver, seaver1 [at] llnl.gov, 925-423-3103

The Lab’s policy on charging leave associated with the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, effective Monday, April 20. This change, which was finalized late Monday, will limit the ability of employees to use authorized leave to those whose work cannot be done via telecommuting. Other employees, whose assignment allows them to productively telecommute, but whose ability to do so is limited due to illness, caregiver duties or other circumstances, may not charge authorized leave and will have to charge the appropriate type of leave — vacation, sick leave, family sick leave or, if appropriate, leave without pay (personal leave). This change aligns us with practices at other NNSA sites, and with the recently enacted CARES legislation.

We were all faced last month with the sudden onset of the pandemic, the closure of schools and the imposition of local and state shelter-in-place orders. In response, the Lab reduced its operations to the bare minimum for safety and security, while making available authorized leave and liberal and expedited telecommuting arrangements. As the pandemic has evolved, it has become clear that new ways of working will be necessary for the foreseeable future. Since we have a critical and time-sensitive role in national security — one that exempts our work from state or local shelter-in-place restrictions — we have been gradually and deliberately resuming on-site our most critical programmatic activities. We have done so while implementing a set of work controls that mitigate the risks of viral transmission on-site. When combined with strict adherence to social distancing and other shelter-in-place requirements, we will continue to contribute positively to managing the outbreak in California.

We also have been working with NNSA to develop a more sustainable approach to both work posture and leave accounting. Working from home will continue to be preferred whenever feasible, and flexibility will be provided in your weekly work schedule and in allowing intermittent time on site to maximize productivity. Anyone who can work this way will be expected to charge the project(s)/task(s) related to all work performed.  

Employees who are unable to work their full schedule from home, because their duties require on-site access or resources, may charge authorized leave for unproductive time only after making all reasonable attempts to perform other work remotely.

All employees also should continue to charge vacation if they take vacation and charge sick leave if they are sick or caring for an ill family member.

I realize this may cause a hardship to some, especially those with minimal or zero leave balances. To help mitigate this, the Lab has been given authority to allow employees to “borrow” two weeks of sick leave if their balance is below 80 hours. This is in addition to the existing program where employees can borrow up to 40 hours of vacation. Also, the previous limit on family sick leave has been doubled, from 240 to 480 hours in a year.

More details on these changes will appear in upcoming Newsline articles.

These are difficult times. Many in our community are experiencing extreme uncertainty and hardship through no fault of their own. We’ll only get through by helping one another, while staying as safe as we each can.

-Bill Goldstein, Laboratory director