The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) needs to issue comprehensive guidance to government contracting officers authorizing them to allow federal contractors to telework on the contracts they support during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a group that lobbies on behalf of government contractors.

Guidance this week issued by the Office of Personnel Management and OBM on teleworking applies only to federal civilian employees and uniformed personnel, David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council (PSC), wrote in a March 18 letter to Acting OMB Director Russell Vought.

“When federal employees are sent home to telework, contractors are often also sent home as well but may not be given the authority to telework,” Berteau wrote in the letter that was released by the PSC on Thursday. “Instead, they are told that ‘telework is not authorized under the contract,’ despite clear statutory and Federal Acquisition Regulation authority to telework. This reaction is often because there is no guidance for them to take maximum advantage of the authority that already exists. That guidance is needed.”

Berteau points out that NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine this week provided comprehensive guidance that includes employees and contractors to begin teleworking immediately.

Without government-wide guidance for telework by contractors, this “effectively ends the important work being done for the government by those contractors and undermines the intent of guidance from the President and senior government officials,” Berteau said. If contractors are forced to stop working, government missions will be “jeopardized” and “companies may have to lay off workers at this perilous time for the overall economy,” he warned.