On Aug. 27, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)  released additional questions and answers (FAQs) related to new school schedules and paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). As employers, school districts and ESCs should be aware of the FAQs so that they answer paid leave questions from their employees who are parents or guardians of school-aged children.

The FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide up to 80 hours of sick leave and an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave—paid at two-thirds the employee's regular rate—when employees are unable to work because they need to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for COVID-19-related reasons.

Because schools are using various in-person and distance learning formats and schedules during the pandemic, the new FAQs help explain when employees may be eligible for related paid leave.

For example, some schools are alternating in-person and distance learning days and students are allowed to attend in-person classes only on their allotted days. In this situation, parents are eligible to take paid leave on days when their child is required to engage in remote learning, so long as the parent actually needs the leave for childcare purposes and is the only suitable person available.

The DOL also issued a letter on expanded unemployment eligibility under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance provisions, which cover people who are unable to work because they are providing primary care for a child who is unable to attend school because of the pandemic, among other reasons.

FFCRA leave and unemployment benefits are only available if the child’s school is closed for reasons related to COVID-19. DOL guidance reflects that these benefits programs are reserved only for cases in which the school has chosen to conduct distance learning, or some hybrid form of distance learning, However, the DOL noted, parents may be eligible for paid leave to care for a child who has been ordered to quarantine or self-isolate.

The division of legal services will continue to monitor DOL updates and guidance documents and share them with OSBA member districts as they become available.

Posted by Van D. Keating on 9/11/2020