The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), passed in the early days of the pandemic, required employers to provide paid sick leave for, among other reasons, employees who needed to stay home to care for a child whose school or place of care closed due to COVID-19. With school closings on the rise again and positive tests causing portions of classes to stay home to quarantine, employers need to prepare for a second wave of leave requests – which may come from employees who have already exhausted their paid leave rights under FFCRA.
The FFCRA provides, among other benefits, up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave, paid at 2/3 their regular rate of pay (or the applicable state or Federal minimum wage up to $200 daily and $12,000 total,) if the employee is caring for their child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons. The leave is only available if there is no in-person option available to the child. Additionally, for those children who alternate between in-person learning and virtual classes at home, the paid leave is only available on those days the in-person learning is not available to the child.
Employers should have a plan in place for those employees who have exhausted all of their FFCRA leave and still need time off. This may require employers to be both flexible and creative in providing intermittent leave for employees (e.g., unpaid time off or some other accommodation). Employers should also consider coordinating with employees who have spouses using their available allotted FFCRA leave. While additional unpaid leave is not required, employers may want to evaluate these alternate leave options in order to have consistency and stability in their workforce.
Employers are cautioned, however, to ensure that their plans are applied in an even, non-disparate manner. Finally, to qualify for paid leave (and for employers to qualify for the tax credits,) employees must provide the child’s name, the name of the school, location of care or childcare provider that is now unavailable, and a statement that no other adult is available to care for the employee’s child.
For further counseling on options available to address employee leave issues, contact Jim Hanson, Jack Finklea, Sari Pettinger, David Robinson, or Don Vogel, or email COVID19TaskForce@scopelitis.com.