The Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into effect by President Donald Trump in March of 2020. Generally speaking, the Act requires employers with fewer than 500 employees provide two different options of emergency paid leave, expanding upon the existing Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow employees who need it to care for a child whose primary childcare facility or school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers who fall under the FFCRA qualifications must provide up to 12 weeks of leave paid at two-thirds of a workers’ regular rate of pay if the employee is caring for a child whose school or care provider is currently unavailable.
Months after the pandemic began, some parents are nearing the end of their paid leave allowance through the FFCRA, despite some schools and care providers remaining closed or opting for a virtual learning model in lieu of in-person schooling. This has brought up questions about the usage of FFCRA leave.
On August 27, the US Department of Labor (DOL) addressed these questions by releasing guidance stating that “FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance.” In other words, if the school an employee’s child is enrolled in is providing both in-person or virtual learning options, that employee may not use FFCRA if they elect to use the virtual learning option for their child.
It is important to note that if a school is using a hybrid model, where the child attends school in-person part of the week and virtual-learns at home the rest of the week, the employed parent can use FFCRA leave on the days the child has remote learning. The same principle applies to schools that adopt a model where the school year begins with at-home virtual learning and transitions to in-person learning at a later date. If and when the school re-opens, the DOL has stated that a parent’s eligibility for leave “will depend on the particulars of the school’s operations.”
When it comes to the 2020-2021 school year and FFCRA paid leave, the options aren’t always cut-and-dry. We encourage you to work with your employees and exhibit the flexibility needed in an effort to prevent them from leaving altogether. If you have specific questions about FFCRA leave and how it pertains to the employees within your organization, we encourage you to reach out to your Achilles Group representative or contact Jennifer Heylmun at 281-685-3307 or via email at Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss further.