House OKs Telecommuting for Federal Contractors

House OKs Telecommuting for Federal Contractors

Legislation intended to encourage telecommuting by outside federal contractors unanimously passed in the House at the end of their March session. The bill was sent to the Senate and referred to the Committee on Governmental Affairs where it still resides.

Called the "Freedom to Telecommute Act of 2002", the bill passed the House 421-0 and amends the current Federal Procurement Policy to end any prohibitions against awarding contracts to businesses that employ telecommuters. Currently federal agencies may refuse a bid from a potential contractor that has employees who telecommute.

"Private sector organizations and federal agencies with telecommuting programs receive significant benefits such as a more productive workforce and increased morale," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., the bill's sponsor. "The federal government should be a telecommuting leader."

Under the legislation, federal agencies can still turn down a bid proposal from a telecommuting employer, provided they certify in writing the exact reason(s) why telecommuting would conflict with the agency's needs (such as having to treat classified information).

"About 19 million people telework today and the number is increasing," Davis said. "Unfortunately federal agencies have been reluctant to embrace the concept and shift their focus to more results-driven measurements of work. Now when the federal government contracts with companies that embrace telework initiatives, the federal workforce is directly exposed to concept. This will serve as one more way to help break down the managerial barriers to successful telecommuting in the federal government."