Like some other employers across the country, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is calling employees back to work. And like other workplaces, employees have similar concerns about safety.
On June 1, 2020, employees that were unable to work remotely in Kentucky, Utah, and Texas returned to worksites after these states relaxed stay-home guidance. In recent weeks in states that have been closed, the IRS has put out a call for volunteers to return to the office to perform critical, but non-portable duties as the agency has fallen further behind.
According to the National Treasury Employees Union, there are about 20,000 employees in the three identified states. About 11,000 are subject to a call to return to the office, while the other 9,000 are able to work remotely.
As with other employers, the agency has developed its own return-to-work policies, including:
- Employees who have children will need to use personal leave if they are unable to return to work due to childcare responsibilities.
- Employees with health risk factors and complicating health conditions are still able to remain at home on leave.
- Employees able to work at home will remain remote in order to reduce the headcount and increase social distancing in agency facilities.
In April, the agency issued an employee recall telling employees to bring their own facemasks. The move drew condemnation from legislators and safety officials. Lawmakers wrote, “It is completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment—this is the responsibility of the federal government to its workers.” At the time, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig reported that 100 IRS employees had been diagnosed with Covid-19 at that time and four had passed away due to the virus.
At present, the agency notes it is complying with CDC guidelines concerning the cleaning of office spaces, providing hand sanitizer and face masks, and altering work spaces to allow for social distancing.
When the IRS shut down, it was in full-swing providing one-time stimulus payment and processing tax returns. Although the filing deadline or tax returns was pushed back to July 15, returning employees are facing a substantial backlog of work—along with concern over COVID-19.
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