By Nancy Owen, PHR, Senior HR Consultant, East Coast Risk Management
It has been months since we were introduced to the Coronavirus; and ever since, it has greatly impacted our children and their school systems. Though the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) helped many parents manage the day care challenges they were facing, no one could have predicted that we would still be facing the same challenge this upcoming school year. As school systems continue to announce their new school year plans, parents are starting to panic about how they will handle once again being challenged with working while caring for their children.
Some states have announced that their schools will be totally remote while others are implementing split weeks, consisting of some students spending their days learning virtually while others are on-site. Some schools are even giving parents a choice of having their child learn virtually, 100% of the time, while others are delaying their opening altogether.
What does this new school years challenges mean for employers?
First, remember according to the FFCRA order… The FFCRA should only be used when the situation of school closure actually prevents the employee from working. If the employee is able to perform the employee’s former job functions through “teleworking”, then the employee is not actually “unable to work.”
For your reference, we have included links to the FFCRA blogs we presented in March and April of this year.
- FFCRA: https://eastcoastriskmanagement.com/families-first-coronavirus-response-act/
- FFCRA Deeper Dive: https://eastcoastriskmanagement.com/ffcra/
- Is my employee eligible for childcare under FFCRA, even though it is the employee who has chosen to put their child(ren) in school virtually, instead of in-person.
- Not normally. To qualify for the childcare portion of Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) or the EFMLA leave, the location where the child receives schooling or care must be closed. However, if the child’s school is reducing its capacity because of compliance with social distancing guidelines and the child has no choice but to receive remote learning either part time or full time then the employee may be eligible.
2. If an employees child has a health issue and would be at risk and their health care provider has advised them to attend school virtually, would the employee then be eligible for FFCRA childcare?
- In that case, E-FMLA is not available if the child’s school is open; but, the EPSL may be available to care for a child who has been advised by their health care provider to quarantine because they are particularly vulnerable and the child cannot care for themselves.
3. What if my child school only offers on-site schooling for part of the school day, or week and they must be remotely learning the rest of the time?
- If a school is partially closed due to COVID-19, then FFCRA leave likely will be available.
4. Are before and after school programs included?
- The FFCRA covers a place of care and that is any physical location in which care is provided to the employee’s child. This does include: day care facilitates, preschools, before and after school care programs, schools, homes, summer camps, summer enrichment programs, and respite care programs.
5. What if my employee has exhausted FMLA or E-FMLA time?
- If employees have exhausted all 12 weeks of FMLA or E-FMLA leave, they will not be eligible to take additional leave for E-FMLA purposes. However, they may be eligible to use the EPSL childcare portion of the FFCRA.
6. Can my employee use the FFCRA intermittently if they are unable to work or unable to telework because they need to care for their child(ren) whose school or place of care is closed or childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19?
- That is possible, intermittent leave is only available with employer consent. The amount of time taken is calculated as is FMLA intermittent leave where only the amount of FFCRA leave actually taken may be counted toward the employee’s leave entitlements.
7. What if my employee successfully worked remotely prior to the summer recess and now school remains closed and they want to use the FFCRA for childcare, can I refuse to allow FFCRA?
- Usually no … just because the employee did not use it in the past does not mean their reasons are not valid now. The employee may not be able to care for the child this time because of a school workload or because a more suitable childcare is not now available. The alternative may be to offer intermittent leave for the employee so they can balance the workload and childcare responsibilities.
If you are an employer that has questions on any issue relating to human resources, safety, or workers’ compensation, contact East Coast Risk Management by calling 724-864-8745 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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