Federal Leave is Ending, What’s Next?

December 08, 2020 • Karen Dooley

Federal Leave is Ending, What’s Next?

Leave benefits that employers are required to provide through the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) will expire December 31, 2020, and HR Services members are wondering what their next step should be to provide paid or unpaid leave options to employees affected by the pandemic.

As noted in the August HRX article, Extending Paid and Unpaid Leave Options Through a Resolution, a board resolution continues to provide a simple solution to temporarily provide additional paid and unpaid leave options to employees. To overcome a challenge that additional leave is an unconstitutional gift of public funds, the board should pass a resolution to find a public purpose for extending this benefit in the middle of a school year. Such a public purpose may be to protect students and staff, maintain morale, or reduce turnover.

TASB Legal has recently updated the customizable sample leave resolutions to respond to FFCRA leave expiring. All previously created resolutions are available as a downloadable document in TASB Legal eSource.

Local options

Some districts have opted to extend the same protections currently available under the FFCRA after the expiration of the Act. A local extension of the benefits provided under the FFCRA may provide more benefits than a district desires, since the FFCRA provides paid leave for the employee’s illness and, potentially, for a person under the employee’s care through the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA). Likewise, the district may not wish to extend paid leave for the care of a son or daughter whose place of care or school is unavailable, as provided by the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (EMFLEA) which was part of the FFCRA.

Districts have the option to offer additional leave tailored to the district’s needs by board resolution. Remember, the resolution should be time-limited and easy to manage. Prior to approving a board resolution to extend any type of paid or unpaid leave, the following details should be considered.

  • Type of leave available (e.g., paid leave, unpaid leave, both)
  • Amount of leave (e.g., five days, 10 days)
  • Rate of pay for paid leave option (e.g., two-thirds pay, half pay, one-fourth pay)
  • Eligibility criteria (e.g., only for employees who have exhausted accrued leave, specific to certain employee groups)
  • Qualifying events (e.g., only for employees required to quarantine due to exposure at work, positive COVID-19 test)
  • Coordination with existing leave provisions (e.g., add COVID-19 reason to eligibility criteria for leave pool or bank, increase number of extended sick leave days if COVID-19 related, forego neutral absence provision for pandemic-related absences)
  • Effective period of resolution (e.g., effective at the expiration of FFCRA, expires with the onset of other federal leave program, ending with 2020-2021 school year or June 30)

Additional paid leave could result in a strain on the existing budget, so it is important to align the considerations with your leave philosophy. Choosing options that limit the situations in which leave is provided may allow a district to balance job protections for employees who have been exposed at work or who test positive with funding limitations.

It is not recommended to rescind a resolution prior to the established expiration date, so getting it right matters. We recommend working with local legal counsel to determine the leave options that best fit your district’s needs.

Additional information regarding leave during a pandemic can be found in the Epidemic Response section of the HR Library.

Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at karen.dooley@tasb.org.

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Tagged: Benefits, COVID-19, "Employment law", Leave