WASHINGTON – Nearly eight in 10 federal employees who have been working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic say they feel unsafe returning to work at this time, while more than 70% of employees working on-site say their agencies are not doing enough to keep them safe, according to a worker survey conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees.
“AFGE surveyed our members to assess the realities of federal workplace safety and preparedness in the midst of this unprecedented pandemic, and the results are clear and concerning. Whether they are working remotely or on-site, federal employees believe their workplaces are unsafe and that their agencies are not doing enough to protect them,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said.
“For months, our members have repeatedly called on the administration to include federal employees in decision-making around pandemic protocols to ensure agencies understand the needs of front-line workers, but our concerns have fallen on deaf ears,” Kelley said.
AFGE fielded the survey from Aug. 5-12, receiving nearly 2,200 responses from members working at many different departments and agencies. Nearly 56 percent of respondents currently are working remotely, while the rest are physically reporting to their worksites.
Of respondents working remotely, 79.2% say they feel unsafe returning to work at this time. Nevertheless, 51% of their worksites have begun requiring employees to return on-site, while just 47% say their employer has communicated a plan for the safe return to worksites. Only one-third say they are confident their employer will able to ensure their safety at worksites.
Of respondents currently working on-site, 73.1% say they do not believe their agency is taking the precautions necessary to keep them safe. More than 69% of employees say their worksites have a COVID-19 workplace safety plan in place, yet 70.5% do not believe that health and safety best practices are being followed. Just 56.2% of employees who require personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their jobs say their worksites have adequate supplies.
The survey also revealed that employees have not been provided with emotional or mental health services to help them cope with the pandemic, whether they are reporting to worksites (54.4%) or working remotely (41%).
In addition, the pandemic is disrupting employees’ ability to care for their children or other family members, with nearly one-third of employees saying they are facing gaps in providing this care, whether working on-site or remotely.
“These results illustrate the significant issues and concerns federal employees are facing in performing their jobs safely during this unprecedented pandemic, and they highlight the lack of resources and support being provided by federal agencies,” Kelley said. “This is why we need Congress to pass legislation that allows employees to continue teleworking throughout this pandemic, expedites production of protective equipment, improves oversight of how agencies are adhering to health and safety guidelines, and ensures workers through their representatives are included in decisions about returning to worksites.”