New Telework Legislation Became Law This Year: How Does It Impact State Employees?

Chapter 696 of the Laws of 2021 set about creating a framework for telework policy for employers and employees.  It is an effort to acknowledge the changed workplace brought on by the pandemic, as well as an attempt to create new guidelines and assistance for the state’s workforce and its businesses.

For the private sector, it creates the Office of Telework Assistance within the Department of Commerce to establish best practices predominately focused on private employers.  It also establishes the Business Telework Assistance Grant Program within the Department of Commerce to provide grants - prioritizing small businesses - for hardware, software, and tech equipment.  $1M is mandated to be spent annually for grants and administrative costs.

How does it impact the State workforce?

It begins by expanding telework policy beyond the Executive Branch to the Judiciary and Legislative Branches of government, as well as individual public higher education institutions. 

Beginning with fiscal year 2023 (which begins July 1 2022), the State must negotiate criteria for designated telework positions if the employees affected by telework policies are represented by an exclusive representative (for example: AFSCME).  To the extent practicable, the State should seek to maximize the number of employees teleworking.  It also calls for guidelines to be developed to ensure the adequacy of information and security protection.  And it calls for two reports to be submitted to the relevant committees of the General Assembly on December 1:

  • a report on those employees eligible AND those participating will be given to Senate Budget & Tax and House Appropriations; and
  • a report from the Office of Telework Assistance on best practices.

To their credit, the State reached out to AFSCME this summer to begin negotiations, even though they didn’t have to until July 1, 2022 at the earliest.  Negotiations have gone slowly, and there are still meaningful components that AFSCME needs to see before we can proclaim a fulsome and effective telework policy completed. 

The working world changed because of the pandemic, and AFSCME is fighting to make sure our members’ telework is acknowledged as maintaining the State’s ability to keep moving forward and delivering the needs of Marylanders.  There’s no need to go back to the old ways when the new ways are just as effective.  Workers should have the ability to create a teleworking agreement that works for everyone – getting the job done is #1, and how it gets done should be secondary.  We will keep fighting for the best telework policy possible.