Contractors Seek Clearer, Uniform Guidance for Returning to Offices

A lead trade association would like federal agencies to issue uniform guidance for their contractors’ return to workplaces amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

The approximate 4.1 million federal contractors play an integral role in the functioning of the government, but are often managed differently than the 2 million federal employees. After calling on the Trump administration to issue guidance regarding telework at the onset of the pandemic, the Professional Services Council, which represents over 400 companies that work with the federal government, now would like to see agencies issue some form of uniform guidance regarding returning to workplaces. 

The Office of Management and Budget and Office of Personnel Management outlined in April how federal agencies should consider bringing employees back to offices, while noting it will vary based on the region. Although there have also been questions, confusion and concerns, individual agencies have been issuing their own reopening plans for their employees. 

“The guidance needs to be clearer, it needs to be more uniform, it needs to be consistent and it needs to be visible, transparent,” David Berteau, PSC president and CEO, told Government Executive during an interview last week. “I think it’s a huge hole in the government’s response. They don’t tend to think of contractors as part of an integrated workforce when they absolutely are.” 

He said he hasn’t seen a “good example” of a federal agency that has issued guidance specific for contractors and in most cases they only say the decisions are left up to the individual contractors when asked. 

Berteau acknowledged that there does need to be some flexibility depending on the companies’ locations and their specific needs, but it “could simply say, for instance, with respect to contractors, you know, ‘Don’t make them come back to the office unless you need.’” 

Robert Burton, partner

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