On March 19, 2020, President Trump signed into law The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that will remain effective until December 31, 2020. The FFCRA mandated two types of leave for eligible employees, emergency paid sick leave and FMLA leave.
Emergency Paid Sick Leave
Employers with fewer than 500 employees are required to provide eligible employees with 80 hours of paid sick leave who are unable to work or telework for reasons including being subject to a quarantine, caring for someone quarantined, experiencing COVID-related symptoms or caring for a child whose daycare or school is closed due to COVID-19.
Emergency FMLA Leave
Employers with fewer than 500 employees, and covered public-sector employers, must provide up to 12 weeks of job-protected FMLA leave for “a qualifying need related to a public health emergency” to employees who have been on the payroll for 30 calendar days. A “qualifying need” is limited to circumstances where an employee is unable to work or telework due to a need to care for a minor child if the child’s school or place of childcare has been closed or is unavailable due to a public health emergency.
For more specifics related to FFCRA, see the Smart HR FFCRA Blog.
Learning Models Lead To Confusion
Now that most children are back in school, in whatever form that may be, the FFCRA childcare leave is particularly important for working parents. Because school systems are approaching learning in a variety of ways, including all in-person, all remote or a hybrid model, it’s important for employers to understand how the FFCRA affects its workforce. The DOL recently provided guidance in the form of frequently asked questions to help employers and employees better understand the FFCRA. The DOL’s FAQs can be found here. Following are three common scenarios addressed in the guidance, and the DOL’s response.
My Child’s School Offers Parents The Choice Of In-Person Or Remote Learning. If I Choose Remote Learning For Fear My Child May Contract COVID-19, Can I Fake Paid FFCRA Leave?
No. Because the school is open and not closed due to COVID-19-related reasons, the employee isn’t eligible for paid FFCRA leave. If, however, the child is home due to a quarantine order or because a medical practitioner advised the child to self-quarantine, the employee may be eligible to take paid FFCRA leave to care for the child.
My Child’s School Has Moved To Online Instruction Requiring My Child To Complete Assignments At Home And Submit Them Electronically. What Constitutes A “Closed” School?
If the physical location of your child’s school is closed, the DOL considers the school closed for purposes of paid FFCRA leave. Even if learning is provided online or through another distance learning format, the school itself is closed.
My Child’s School Is On An Alternate Day School Where My Child Is Home With Me On Monday, Wednesday And Friday But Is At School On Tuesday And Thursday. Am I Eligible For Paid FFCRA Leave?
Yes. The employee is eligible for paid FFCRA leave on the days the child is not permitted to attend school in person as long as the employee needs the leave to actually care for the child while home, and no other suitable person can.
My Child’s School Is Starting The Year Remotely With Plans For All In-Person Learning Effective October 1st. Am I Eligible For Paid FFCRA Leave?
Yes. The employee is eligible for paid FFCRA leave until the school is open for in-person learning. Note, however, if parents are provided the option of in-person or remote learning on October 1, the employee is not eligible for paid FFCRA leave if she chooses to keep her child home.
It’s hard to envision every possible scenario your employees will encounter as parents during this pandemic. It’s likely you have had or will have a scenario for which you don’t have a clear path forward. Because Smart HR’s client base is vast and diverse, we’ve assisted our clients with a wide range of COVID-related issues, possibly exactly your issue. If not, Smart HR has the resources to find an answer and can provide you with a legally-compliant path forward. No question or issue is too small or inconsequential. Call Smart HR for guidance today.