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NIH Dismissal and Closure Definitions and FAQs

The purpose of the NIH Dismissal and Closure Procedures FAQs is to provide guidance to employees and supervisors on the 2013 NIH Closure and Dismissal Procedures. The FAQs also contain information on the new NIH Emergency Tier designation system, and expectations for telework in the event of a closure. Supervisors and employees are expected to discuss expectations, tier designations, and telework agreements prior to an emergency situation.

Definitions

Frequently Asked Questions

Definitions

NIH Emergency Employee Tier Definitions

Tier I emergency employees – Emergency employees report to their worksite on time, as scheduled, and remain for the duration of their tour of duty unless otherwise directed by a supervisor. Employees who are required to report to their worksite during their regular tour of duty when federal offices are closed, or when a delayed arrival or early departure is in effect, are not entitled to receive overtime pay, credit hours, or compensatory time off for performing work during their regularly scheduled hours.

Tier II non-emergency/teleworkers – When the NIH is closed, Tier II employees who are regularly scheduled to telework or whose telework agreement stipulates the option to request “ad hoc” telework during emergency situations declared by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), DHHS, NIH, or the IC must (1) telework the entire workday; (2) request leave; or, (3) combine telework and leave. When the NIH is open under unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework announcements, Tier II employees are required to (1) report to their worksite; (2) telework the entire workday; (3) request leave; or, (4) combine telework and leave. Tier II teleworkers must submit an ad hoc request in ITAS for the use of unscheduled telework before the close of the pay period.

Tier III non-emergency/non-teleworkers – When NIH is closed and Tier III employees are prevented from working due to an emergency, then excused absence should be granted. However, excused absence should not be granted to employees on (1) leave without pay; (2) official travel; or, (3) a flexible or compressed work schedule day off. When NIH is open under unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework announcements, Tier III employees are required to request unscheduled leave or report to their worksite.

2014 Definitions for OPM Dismissals and Closures Terminology

Federal Offices Are Closed – Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s policies. Tier I emergency employees are expected to arrive at their worksite on time and stay for the duration of their tour unless directed otherwise by a supervisor. Tier II non-emergency employees who are scheduled to telework or who are required to telework during the closure if it is stipulated in their written telework agreements must telework the entire day, request leave, or a combination of both. Employees are strongly suggested to discuss this requirement with their supervisor prior to an emergency situation. Tier III non-emergency employees will be granted excused absence.

Immediate Departure – Federal Offices are Closed. Tier II and III non-emergency employees should depart immediately. NIH offices in the Washington, DC area are closed. Tier I employees are expected to remain at their worksite and complete their normal tour of duty. Non-emergency employees (Tier II) who are teleworking when the announcement is made should continue to telework for the entire workday or request unscheduled leave from their supervisor for the remainder of the day. Tier II employees onsite and Tier III employees will be granted administrative leave for the remaining hours in their work day. Tier II and III non-emergency employeeswho depart prior to the immediate departure time or final departure time may request to use unscheduled leave. Such employees will be charged leave for the remainder of their workday and will not be granted excused absence.

Open Delayed Arrival – (New definition for a delayed arrival with single opening time for Federal offices). Employees must report to their office no later than xx:xx with option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Tier I emergency employees are expected to report to their worksite on time as scheduled unless directed by a supervisor. Tier II non-emergency employees who are scheduled to telework or who request ad hoc telework must telework the entire day, request leave, or a combination of both. Tier II non-emergency employees who do not request ad-hoc telework or leave and Tier III non-emergency employees will receive excused absence up until the announced reporting time but may arrive at their offices earlier.

Telework-Ready Employees – Telework-ready employees are those who are on written telework agreements. This includes regular and ad hoc teleworkers. This written telework agreement should include expectations for the employee when teleworking and should address whether the employee may perform unscheduled telework and whether the employee is required to work when NIH is closed.

Unscheduled telework – Unscheduled telework is ad hoc telework. Employees who are on ad hoc telework (i.e. written telework agreement) have the option of telework when OPM announces “unscheduled telework” for employees. Employees must contact their supervisors to request unscheduled telework.

Excused Absence / Administrative Leave – Non-emergency employees and employees without an ad-hoc telework agreement are granted excused absence when their worksite is closed and they are prevented from working due to the emergency. However, excused absence should not be granted to employees on (1) leave without pay, (2) official travel, or (3) a flexible or compressed work schedule day off. When Federal offices are closed, employees who can telework safely in their own homes generally should no longer be granted excused absence. Supervisors have the authority to grant excused absence to telework ready and emergency employees on a case-by-case basis when it is not possible to telework or report to the worksite due to complications or personal hardship (e.g., power outages or network connection problems that prevent telework, childcare or eldercare issues, etc.).

Frequently Asked Questions

Geographic Area of Application of Emergency Procedures

What is the geographic area affected by the Washington, DC Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures?

This dismissal procedure applies to NIH employees with worksites located inside the “Washington Capital Beltway and all NIH facilities in Montgomery County.

If I am an employee working outside the Washington, DC area (e.g. Frederick, Baltimore, etc.) should I follow the Washington, DC area dismissal procedures?

No. You should consult the following for dismissal and closure procedures:

Baltimore, MD – Follow instructions provided by the Baltimore Federal Executive Board Inclement Weather Advisory External Web Site Disclaimer or local Baltimore radio and television stations

Frederick, MD - Follow instructions provided by the Fort Detrick Inclement Weather External Web Site Disclaimer (Public Affairs Office); call Ft. Detrick 301-619-7611 or toll free 1-800-256-7621, “press *8, 37611#”; TDD 301-619-2293; or tune in to local radio station WFRE 99.9FM

Research Triangle Park, North Carolina – Follow instructions provided on the NIEHS homepage External Web Site Disclaimer; the Junctionweb site; or call the NIEHS Voice Response System at 919-541-1919.

Hamilton, Montana – Follow instructions provided at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories External Web Site Disclaimer web site; contact the RML Hotline at 406-375-9675, or tune into the local radio station KLYQ 1240 AM in Hamilton.

Telework during Emergencies

Is telework voluntary?

Telework is voluntary, but a written agreement that outlines expectations is required before an employee can participate in telework.

Can I be forced to sign a telework agreement in lieu of receiving an excused absence when Federal offices are closed?

No. Your supervisor cannot coerce you to sign a telework agreement to avoid providing excused absence on a day when Federal offices are closed.

Under OPM’s new Federal Office Closure Announcement, will I be required to telework?

If OPM issues a “Federal Office Closed” announcement and you are covered under a written telework agreement and approved for ad hoc telework, you are required to telework on the effective day of the announcement, as required by the written telework agreement. If you are not covered under a written telework agreement, you will not be required to telework and will be granted excused absence. If you are covered under an ad hoc telework agreement and do not telework, you have the option to request unscheduled leave.

What are supervisors required to do to prepare employees to telework or be telework-ready?

Supervisors should clearly communicate their expectations for teleworkers during an emergency situation. Employees and supervisors should have discussions concerning possible issues that may prevent an employee from teleworking during an emergency closure or dismissal. Furthermore, supervisors are strongly encouraged to allow their employees to telework routinely to ensure there are no equipment or connectivity issues.

When NIH announces that offices are closed, does this mean that I will automatically receive excused absence (administrative leave)?

When NIH offices are closed, Tier I employees are required to arrive at their worksite for their tour of duty on time unless otherwise directed by their supervisor. Tier II employees whose written telework agreements stipulate that they will telework during office closures are required to telework or request unscheduled leave. Tier III employees prohibited from working due to the closure, delayed arrival, or early dismissal will be granted excused absense.

If I am on an approved adhoc telework agreement what is the expectation for me to prepare for an unscheduled telework day?

As a Tier II employee on an approved adhoc telework agreement, you should prepare for impending closures by bringing home your laptop and any important documents you may need to telework for the entire workday. This will allow you to telework even if you lose internet connectivity. Failure to prepare for an emergency situation is not an excuse to not telework.

If I am a non-emergency Tier II employee, am I permitted to telework for part of the day in the event of a closure, delayed arrival, or early dismissal?

Yes, Tier II employees who are scheduled to telework or who request ad hoc telework in the event of a closure, delayed arrival, or early dismissal may telework for part of the day with permission from their supervisor. Hours teleworked and hours worked at the worksite for the day should add up to your established tour of duty. Tier II employees must submit an ad hoc request in ITAS for the use of unscheduled telework before the close of the pay period.

Failure to Work

If I am a Tier I emergency employee and cannot report for work during an emergency situation, may I be granted excused absence?

Your supervisor may grant a reasonable amount of excused absence to a Tier I employee who is unable to report to the worksite or faces a personal hardship. For example, factors such as distance, availability of public transportation, available alternatives to childcare or eldercare, or health/medical limitations may be considered. Tier I employees who cannot report to their designated worksite are expected to continuously update their supervisor on their status and their ability to commute to the worksite during the emergency.

Note: Excused absences is granted on a case by case basis. Case by case considerations include: an employee’s inability to telework due to lack of power or connectivity; equipment failure or unavailability; childcare or eldercare issues; or lack of available public transportation.

If I am Tier II employee on a written telework agreement and I cannot telework during Federal offices closure, will I be granted an excused absence?

In rare situations, your supervisor may determine that circumstances justify granting excused absence if you are on a written telework agreement. This could occur, for instance, if power outages or network connection problems prevent telework. If you are required to work and fail to report for work without adequate reason, your supervisor may place you in an absence without leave (AWOL) status, and you may potentially be disciplined for AWOL. Supervisors should contact the OHR Employee & Labor Relations Office NIH Access Only for guidance.

Note: Excused absences is granted on a case by case basis. Case by case considerations include: an employee’s inability to telework due to lack of power or connectivity; equipment failure or unavailability; childcare or eldercare issues; or lack of available public transportation.

Delayed Arrival/Departure and Closure Announcements

What are the details of the new OPM “Delayed Arrival” announcement?

OPM will announce a designated time by which employees should report to their duty location. All Tier II and III non-emergency employees who commute to their worksite on that day are expected to arrive no later than the designated time and will be granted excused absence (administrative leave) up until that designated time. If an employee arrives after the designated time, he or she will be charged leave. If unscheduled telework is announced as an option, employees who choose this option should telework for their entire tour of duty. If unscheduled leave is announced as an option, employees who choose this option will be charged leave for their entire tour of duty. Tier I emergency employees are expected to report on time for their usual tour of duty, unless directed otherwise.

Am I required to telework during a delayed arrival announcement from OPM?

NIH cannot require you to telework when OPM announces a delayed arrival announcement.

Telework should always be voluntary during these particular announcements and employees will be given the opportunity to perform unscheduled telework, take leave, use a combination of the two, or report to the official worksite. If you are approved to use unscheduled telework versus report to the worksite, you should work the entire day.

If OPM announces an early departure and I am teleworking, should I stop teleworking at that time?

If OPM announces an early departure and you are teleworking, you should continue teleworking for the entire day. If you are impacted by the emergency, then you may request appropriate leave, earned compensatory time off, credit hours (if permitted), or may ask to reschedule your flexible work schedule day off when additional time is needed. Your supervisor may exercise his or her authority to grant excused absence to teleworkers on a case-by-case basis (e.g., for electricity/infrastructure/connectivity issues, childcare or eldercare issues).

May I use LWOP (Leave Without Pay) on a day when unscheduled leave is announced by OPM?

Three of OPM’s operating status announcements state that an employee may “use” LWOP on a day when unscheduled leave is announced. You must request LWOP and it must be approved by your supervisor. OPM’s procedures do not create an automatic entitlement to use LWOP when the option for unscheduled leave is made available.

Will I receive additional pay or paid time off if I am required to report to my worksite or telework during my regular tour of duty on a day when Federal offices are closed (or when other employees are authorized a delayed arrival or an early departure)?

Employees who are required to report to their worksite or telework during their regular tour of duty on a day when NIH offices are closed are not entitled to receive overtime pay, credit hours, or compensatory time off for performing work during their regularly scheduled non-overtime hours.

If OPM announces an early or immediate departure, may I leave my worksite prior to the announced departure time?

Yes. Tier II and III non-emergency employees who depart prior to the early, immediate, or final departure time may request to use unscheduled leave. Such employees will be charged leave for the remainder of their workday and will not be granted excused absence.

Tier III Non-emergency/non-teleworkers

If I am a Tier III non-emergency employee who is not on a written telework agreement, will I be granted excused absence when my worksite is closed and I am prevented from working due to the emergency?

As a Tier III non-emergency employee, you will be granted excused absence when your worksite is closed and you are prevented from working due to the emergency. However, excused absence will not be granted to employees on (1) leave without pay, (2) official travel, or (3) a flexible or compressed work schedule day off.

Recall Procedures

If Federal offices are closed for an extended period of time, may I be recalled to work if I am designated as a Tier III non-emergency employee?

During extended Federal Government closures, NIH may deem that changing circumstances require Tier III employees to report to their worksites. NIH has established procedures for notifying and recalling Tier III employees. Tier III employees are expected to remain in contact with their supervisor at all times during dismissal or closure situations to maintain continuity readiness.

AWS (Alternative Work Schedule) Days off

If Federal offices are closed on my regular AWS day off, am I entitled to an additional “in lieu of day off?”

If Federal offices are closed on your regular AWS day off, you are not entitled to an additional “in lieu of day off.” Additionally, employees cannot be granted excused absence on a non-workday.

Childcare/Eldercare Issues

If I am a Tier I emergency employee and my worksite is closed during an emergency, will I be granted an excused absence if I do not have adequate childcare/eldercare due to the emergency?

Tier I emergency employees who cannot report to their designated worksite are expected to continuously update their supervisor on their status and their ability to report to their worksite during the emergency. Your supervisor may grant you excused absence if you are unable to report to your worksite due to lack of childcare/eldercare during an emergency closure. Supervisors will make this decision on a case-by-case basis.

If I am a Tier II non-emergency employee, will I be granted excused absence if I cannot telework because of inadequate childcare/eldercare due to the emergency?

You and your supervisor should have a “pre-weather” discussion about contingencies during emergencies or unexpected events that may impact childcare or eldercare and prevent you from teleworking or reporting to your worksite. Your supervisor may grant you excused absence if you are unable to telework or report to your worksite due to lack of childcare/eldercare during an emergency closure. Supervisors will make this decision on a case by case basis. Certain situations such as school closures or a homecare professional unable to travel to your home may be considered by your supervisor.

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