Philadelphia requires all full-time city employees to return to the office

FILE - Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Friday, Feb. 16, 2024. Parker announced Monday, May 20, 2024, that all city employees must resume working full-time in their offices as of July 15. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Philadelphia has mandated all city employees to return to their offices if employed full-time, as of July 15.

Mayor Cherelle Parker made the announcement Monday, saying she wants to create a more visible and accessible government. The decision ends the city’s virtual work policy that was put in place in 2021 and essentially returns employees to pre-pandemic scheduling.

“Employee presence at the workplace allows for more personal and productive interactions,” said Parker, who took office in January. “It facilitates communication. It promotes social connections as well as collaboration, innovation and inclusion."

Parker said about 80% of the city’s 26,000 employees have been working fully on-site since last year, while the remainder have worked between 31 to 75 hours per-pay-period on site.

The decision drew sharp criticism from American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2187, which represents many of the city's professional and supervisory employees. It said the decision was unilaterally imposed instead of going through collective bargaining.

In a statement issued Monday, Local President David Wilson said the policy would worsen the municipal worker shortage the city has suffered since the pandemic. He also said that making the change over the summer, when children are out of school, will likely complicate schedules for parents.

“It has become clearer than ever that the mayor doesn’t care for her city work force,” Wilson said. "Her actions speak louder than words.”

Parker said her administration does not believe the new policy is subject to collective bargaining. She also noted changes that were made to be more worker-friendly, such as extending paid parental leave from six to eight weeks, and designating the Friday after Thanksgiving as a holiday. Officials have also said there will be relaxed restrictions on the use of sick leave to care for family members.

Business leaders welcomed the announcement, saying it will benefit workers and the vibrancy of Center City, Philadelphia's downtown area.