With a new school year upon us, the Department of Labor (DOL) answered some common questions about paid sick leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The act provides paid sick leave for employee-parents who cannot work due to COVID-19 school closures.
What does the FFCRA cover?
Generally, the FFCRA requires covered employers to offer paid sick and medical leave for specified COVID-19-related reasons. One specified reason is when an employee cannot work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child (under 18 years of age) whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. In this situation, the employee-parent is allowed two weeks (up to 80 hours) of paid sick leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay. Employee-parents who have been employed for at least 30 days can take an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay. The employee-parent qualifies for this paid sick leave only if:
How does the FFCRA define whether a school is “closed”?
Eligibility for leave is clear when a school is closed in the traditional sense. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues with no end in sight, many schools have been forced to get creative with how to approach the fall school year. Some schools have opened fully, some have gone to entirely online classes, and some have adopted a hybrid model where children attend in person some days and are remote the others. These scenarios pose potentially tricky issues under the FFCRA and its requirement that a child’s school be closed or unavailable. To address some of these issues, the DOL issued this guidance:
Furthermore, if a child’s school starts remotely out of concern for COVID-19 but has announced it will continue to monitor local circumstances and may reopen for in-person attendance later in the year, the employee-parent can take paid leave under the FFCRA while the school remains closed. Thereafter, eligibility will depend on the particulars of the school’s operations.
Find additional DOL guidance on this topic and others on its website.
Please contact Taylor Crousillac or any other member of Phelps’ Labor and Employment team if you have questions or need compliance advice and guidance. For more information related to COVID-19, please also see Phelps’s COVID-19: Client Resource Portal.