Paid Leave Considerations During the Back to School Season

Under the Federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) there are two types of child carerelated leave available to employees:  

  1. Up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave, paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay, if the employee is unable to work or telework due to the need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. 
  2. Up to an additional 10 weeks of paid expanded family and medical leave, paid at 2/3 the employee’s regular rate of pay, if the employee is unable to work or telework due to the need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. Note: this type of leave is available only to employees who have been employed for 30 days. 

The passage of Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) expands only the paid sick leave requirements of the FFCRA to all Colorado employers, regardless of size. In other words, with the exception of federal employees, each Colorado employer must now provide paid sick leave in the amount of and for the purposes listed in the Federal “Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act” within the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act”. However, only Colorado employers with less than 500 employees must provide paid expanded family and medical leave (the additional 10 weeks of child-care related leave). 

Suppose an employee voluntarily elects virtual learning for their child, even though in-person learning is available. Are they eligible for child care-related paid leave? 

No. The school or child care center’s physical location must be closed for an employee to be eligible for child care-related paid sick or expanded family and medical leave. Fear of coronavirus in not covered by the FFCRA. 

Under a hybrid model, in which the employee’s child attends in-person learning only on select days, is child care-related paid leave available? 

If the school or child care center is only available on specific days, the employee may be eligible for FFCRA leave. For example, if a hybrid model calls for in-person learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, and remote learning on Wednesday, the employee may be eligible for intermittent FFCRA leave every Wednesday until their leave benefits have been exhausted. 

If an employee received paid leave in the Spring or Summer, are they eligible for child care-related paid leave during the Fall? 

Both the paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave provisions of the FFCRA apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. For each category, leave taken for a qualifying reason at any time during this period would count towards the employee’s total benefit. For example, consider a full-time employee who used 80 hours of paid sick leave in June because they were ordered by a health care provider to quarantine due to COVID-19 symptoms. Their child’s school has elected a fully remote schedule in September. Because their paid sick leave benefits have been exhausted, the employee would now only be eligible for the additional 10 weeks of expanded family and medical leave.  

How can employers minimize the need for employees to use paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave? 

FFCRA leave is available only when an employee is unable to work or telework due to COVID-19 reasons. To help employees stay productive and engaged at work, employers can consider temporary adjustments to work policies. Consider whether employees will be permitted to work outside of typical business hours (when another household member may be available to care for the child), or whether employees be allowed to work at home while simultaneously caring for a child. It may be possible for an employee to work remotely on a reduced schedule. Open communication with employees during the back-to-school season will be imperative to facilitating a smooth transition.

Paid child-care related leave will be on the minds of employers leading up to and throughout the upcoming school-year. Human Resources Plus continues to monitor interpretive guidance and case law regarding coronavirus paid leave. Our COVID-19 Toolkit offers compliant Leave Request Forms, and we’re here to support our business partners in managing challenging situations. For more information, visit hrplusinc.com.

The post Paid Leave Considerations During the Back to School Season appeared first on Human Resources Plus.

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