The unemployment rate among military spouses has hovered at 20% to 22% for the past decade, making this cohort one of the highest unemployed demographics in the United States over that time.
With a June 9, 2023 executive order, President Joe Biden called on federal employers to create more career opportunities not just for military spouses, but for military caregivers and survivors as well.
“The ripple effects of service do not end when uniforms are put away,” said First Lady Jill Biden, as part of her remarks delivered at the order’s signing in Fort Liberty, N.C. “[This executive order] will help so many families. The federal government can’t solve these problems on its own. So, we’re asking employers everywhere to join us: recruit military and veteran spouses, caregivers and survivors. They’re skilled and passionate. Offer them flexible and portable opportunities so you can retain their talent.”
The order included more than a dozen actions designed to boost the hiring and retention of military and veterans’ spouses in the federal workforce, such as bolstering access to child care for military families and improving the collection of data on military and veteran spouses, caregivers and survivors in the federal workforce, for instance.
Exactly five months after the order’s signing, the U.S. Office of Personnel and Management (OPM) has issued a memo providing guidance in support of the directive, and reminding agencies of the existing flexibilities available to help retain military and veteran spouses.
For example, the memo urges agencies to review and evaluate the use of telework and remote work that may benefit military spouses or caregivers, referring agencies to the 2021 Guide to Telework and Remote Work in the Federal Government for guidance on leveraging telework and remote work to “better meet the workforce’s changing needs and improve mission delivery.”
OPM Director Kiran Ahuja also encourages government agencies to establish policies that provide up to five days of administrative leave for federal civilian employees accompanying a military spouse during a geographic relocation occurring as directed by a service member’s orders.
The intent of President Biden’s June executive order “is to provide agencies with additional workplace flexibilities to assist in the retention of military-connected spouses and caregivers,” wrote Ahuja, noting existing workplace flexibilities such as annual leave, sick leave, advanced annual leave or advanced sick leave, leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and alternative work schedules, for example. Along with these and other policies, Ahuja recommended that agencies promote the use of additional workplace flexibilities that will further assist military spouses.
Federal agencies have a number of tools designed to aid retention efforts, the memo pointed out, such as the ability to reassign employees to other positions to “meet employees’ needs as well as mission requirements.” Employees can request assignments, or they may pursue transfers to other federal positions outside of their employing agencies.
OPM’s No. 9 memo encourages agencies to develop agency-specific policies, consistent with merit system principles as defined in 5 U.S.C 2301, to increase retention of military spouses and military caregivers in federal careers, who may encounter personal challenges that could be alleviated with workplace flexibilities.
These policies could include “some type of ‘compassionate transfer’ arrangement where agencies establish procedures for facilitating the transfer of employees from one agency to another.”
Such a practice “would be especially beneficial to employees who are subject to relocation or participate in geographic rotational assignments,” Ahuja wrote, adding that “agencies are encouraged to promote these options, as well as other flexible work arrangements, such as remote work and alternative or adjustable work schedules, to accommodate the unique needs of military spouses.”
21 November 2023
HR News Article