As many as 10,000 employees of the Internal Revenue Service are going back to work, according to a published report. The objective is to return “mission-critical” employees back to the office to conduct work that must be done on-site, according to a copy of an email that was sent by the agency’s human capital officer to all employees.
To help fight the spread of coronavirus and to address the different levels of concern that come employees may have, the IRS is instituting a policy where employees working in the office will have to wear cloth facemasks. The agency did say it is trying to procure personal protective equipment, such as gloves and masks, but each facility “may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately.” Cloth facemasks must be worn in all public and common areas, such as bathrooms, cafeterias, break rooms, hallways, and elevators, and do not have to be worn if an employee is working alone inside an office or cubicle.
The president of the union representing employees who work at the IRS said the employees going back to the office will open mail, handle tax documents, and take calls from taxpayers. The IRS is first seeking volunteers to go back to working in one of its 10 offices nationwide, and is offering financial incentives to those who do. If the IRS does not get enough volunteers, it will direct employees to go back to work.
About 44% of the IRS’s workforce has been working remotely after an evacuation notice was issued last month due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are calling on the IRS to wait until it has enough PPE for all employees who are returning to work prior to opening the doors to its offices.