Requests for leave, specifically for childcare purposes, are on the rise as schools begin the year with varying instructional arrangements that may or may not qualify as a school closure.
Just when we think we’ve gotten Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) for self-isolation or positive COVID-19 cases figured out, employees are requesting Expanded Family and Medical Leave (EFML). While some requested this leave before the summer, we’re seeing many more requests statewide as employees return to district buildings for the 2020–2021 school year.
The Department of Labor (DOL) has added additional FAQs to its lengthy guidance, which should help provide answers to questions about leave for virtual school attendance. Following are some of the more common questions we’re receiving about Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and EFML specifically.
Q: If a campus is only providing virtual instruction to students, would this qualify an employee for FFCRA leave?
A: If an employee is unable to work or telework and the physical location where the employee’s child receives instruction or care is closed, the employee would qualify for FFCRA leave. Once the campus reopens for in-person instruction the employee would no longer qualify.
Q: If an employee chooses to keep their child home for virtual instruction but in-person instruction is offered at the district, would the employee qualify for FFCRA leave?
A: The employee likely wouldn’t qualify because the school is not considered closed if the employee’s child is able to attend in person. If the school has limited capacity and the child is excluded, the employee would continue to be eligible for FFCRA leave until the child is able to attend on campus.
Q: What happens if a campus closes due to a positive COVID-19 case and the school pivots to virtual instruction?
A: If an employee’s child was sent home to learn virtually due to a campus closure and the employee is unable to work or telework, the employee would qualify for FFCRA leave.
Q: Is FFCRA available on an intermittent basis?
A: An employee can take EPSL to care for an individual or for childcare purposes or for childcare under EFML intermittently if the district allows it.
Q: If a student is attending classes on alternate days, is school considered closed when the student is required to participate in virtual instruction?
A: If the campus is unavailable to the student based on his or her in-class or remote instructional schedule, then school would be considered closed on the days of virtual instruction for the purposes of EFML.
As a result of unique instructional arrangements and current or future school closures, some employers are seeking creative ways to support parents who are balancing their job and their family duties. As an example, employers are providing learning pods so employees can continue working while their child is provided instructional support and care at the facility. This option helps maintain employee morale and provides a needed work-life balance during the pandemic.
Amy Campbell is director at TASB HR Services. Send Amy an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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