DOL Updates FAQs on FFCRA Back to School IssuesAugust 31, 2020
Since posting its original guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) in March, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has continued to update its Questions and Answers. Most recently, the DOL provided FAQs addressing a variety of issues relating to students going back to school this fall.
Under qualifying reason number 5 of the FFCRA, employees can take up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave and up to 12 weeks of expanded family and medical leave (10 of which are paid) if an employee is unable to work due to a need for leave because the employee is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) for reasons related to COVID-19.
The new FAQs provide guidance on the availability of FFCRA leave when schools operate using a hybrid model or other form of alternate day structure where students alternate between days attending school in person and days participating in remote learning. The FAQs clarify that the school is considered effectively “closed” on the days that the student cannot attend in person and the employee can take FFCRA leave on each of the remote-learning days.
Many school districts are providing parents with a choice of whether to send their children physically to school, or continue remote learning. The new FAQs clarify that if the school is not closed, then a parent who elects to continue remote learning would not be eligible for FFCRA leave under qualifying reason number 5. Leave could still be available under another qualifying reason, for example, if the parent had to care for the child because the child was advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine in connection with COVID-19.
Other school districts have delayed their physical reopenings and have indicated they will continue with remote learning and will continue to evaluate circumstances. The new FAQs indicate that leave is available while the school remains closed, but that the availability of leave may change depending on the specific circumstances of the school’s operations in the future.
As with many things related to COVID-19, guidance from the DOL and other sources may evolve or change over time. Employers should make sure to review any updated guidance as they continue to plan their staffing needs for the school year.
Hinckley Allen will continue to monitor the ever-developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate. For further information, contact any member of our Labor & Employment Group.