Back to School and the FFCRA
By Kevin M. Mosher • Sep 4, 2020
With every new school year comes new challenges for students, teachers, and families, and this year is certainly no different. As schools begin their 2020–21 academic year—either fully remote, fully in-person, or a combination of the two—many employers are wondering how new school arrangements may affect their employees’ entitlement to paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”). By now, we are all aware that employees are entitled FFCRA leave when they need to care for a child whose school or childcare is closed or otherwise unavailable due to COVID-19 and no other suitable childcare is available. But what happens when schools are open, but children can only attend certain days? What if the school makes them quarantine after potential exposure? What if the school gives the option of in-person or remote learning? Below are some common scenarios and an explanation of how FFCRA rights are affected.
Mandatory Hybrid In-Person and Remote Learning Schools
Many schools across the country are utilizing both in-person and remote instruction for the 2020–21 school year. An employee’s entitlement to FFCRA leave in this type of arrangement is nuanced. If the child is not permitted to attend school on certain days of the week, and the employee needs to care for the child on the remote-learning days and no other suitable person is available to do so, then the employee would be entitled to FFCRA leave. In this situation, the school is effectively “closed” on the days the child is not permitted to attend.
Optional Hybrid In-Person and Remote Learning Schools
Some schools are providing families the option to attend class in person, remotely, or a combination of the two. In this situation, the employee would not be entitled to paid leave on the days the employee is choosing to keep the child home to learn remotely. However, if the child is home from school and learning remotely because the school has required that the child stay home and self-isolate for some reason relating to COVID-19, then the school is effectively “closed” for purposes of the FFCRA, and the employee may be entitled to paid leave.
Starting Fully Remote, but May Transition to In-Person
If an employee’s child’s school is not offering in-person learning, and the employee must care for the child during the school day and no other suitable childcare is available, then the employee is entitled to paid leave under the FFCRA. However, if/when the school re-opens and in-person learning becomes available, the employee would no longer be eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA leave on the days in-person learning was available to the child.
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