In August and September, the Department of Labor provided some guidance for parents on when they can take sick leave or family leave under the FFCRA, a law passed after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, to look after a child who is staying home from school.
The FFCRA provides both sick leave and family when an employee is unable to work “due to a need to care for his or her son or daughter whose school, place of care, or child care provider is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 related reasons.”
The Department opined that, when a school gives a parent the choice between in-school learning and remote learning for his or her child, and the parent chooses remote learning, the parent may not take FFCRA leave for the absence because the school is not “closed.”
However, the Department also stated if a school has gone to an alternate-day or a hybrid-attendance scheme, where students alternate days or even weeks attending in-person and in remote learning, a parent may take FFCRA leave on those days or weeks when the child is not permitted to attend school in person. While the Department has stated that employees may not take FFCRA leave “intermittently” without the permission of their employer, it does not consider such leave “intermittent.”
The guidance can be found in the Department’s FFCRA Questions & Answers Nos. 98 and 99, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/pandemic/ffcra-questions, and in part III of the “Supplementary Information” to the Department’s revised regulations on FFCRA leave, https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/09/16/2020-20351/paid-leave-under-the-families-first-coronavirus-response-act, which were issued in response to a judge’s ruling questioning some of the original rules.
As parents deal with the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on their children’s schooling, more guidance will likely be necessary in the future.