The United State Department of Labor has issued additional guidance on school reopening models and the impact on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)’s emergency paid family and medical leave under the FFCRA. Under the FFCRA, eligible employees will be able to take up to 12 weeks of “public health emergency leave” to care for their child (under age 18) if their child’s school or place of care has been closed, or their child’s child care provider is unavailable, due to a public health emergency. As of now, the FFCRA is set to expire on December 31, 2020.

Hybrid-Attendance/Alternate Day Model

If a school is opening on an alternate-day or hybrid attendance model, the school is deemed “closed” to the child on the days he or she cannot attend in person. Therefore, employees are eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA on days when their child is not permitted to attend school in person and must engage in remote learning, as long as the leave is needed to care for the child and there is no other suitable person available to provide such care.

Choice to Keep Child Home

If a school is providing parents with a choice between having a child attend in person and participating in remote learning, the school is not considered “closed” for COVID-19 related reasons. Therefore, if an employee has chosen to keep their child at home and engage in remote learning, that employee is not eligible for paid leave under the FFCRA. 

If, however, a child has been placed under a quarantine order or has been advised by a healthcare provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine, an employee may be eligible for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave under the emergency sick leave provisions of the FFCRA. An employee is eligible to take paid sick leave to care for the child who is unable to care for him or herself and depends on the employee for care and if providing that care prevents the employee from working and from teleworking.

Remote Learning Model

If a school is reopening under a remote learning model out of concern for COVID-19, the school is considered “closed” and employees are eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA while their child’s school remains closed. If the child’s school evaluates local public health circumstances and makes a decision to change their attendance model, the availability of paid leave under the FFCRA will depend on the specifics of the school’s operations, as outlined above.

Blethen Berens recognizes that the FFCRA continues to impact many businesses and presents new challenges and requirements for employers. If you have questions about the FFCRA, the impact of COVID-19 on your business, or any other employment law issues, please contact one of our employment law attorneys, Julia Ketcham Corbett, Beth Serrill, Silas Danielson, or Kevin Velasquez.