Remote Learning and FFCRA Benefits

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With school set to open within just a few weeks, employers are questioning how to accommodate working parents whose children’s school may be unavailable due to COVID.  The answer will depend on why the employee is asking for leave.  While each district will have their own plan for returning students (in-person; virtually; or a hybrid model of both in-person and virtual seem to be the most common scenarios being considered), Governor Murphy has announced that virtual learning is an option for NJ parents.  

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) provides, among other things, 12 weeks of expanded emergency family medical leave (EFMLA) for employees who are caring for their child(ren) whose school closed or unavailable (keep “or unavailable” b/c school may be open but unavailable under a hybrid model) due to COVID.  This job protected leave is available through 12/31/2020 to employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees.  

Whether an employee will be able to take advantage of this leave will depend on their specific circumstances.

Scenario #1 – School is requiring full-time distance learning

The employee will qualify for child care leave under EFMLA provided the employee certifies that there is no other suitable person to care for the child during the period of leave.

Scenario #2 – School is requiring a mix of in-person and distance learning

The employee will qualify for intermittent child care leave under the EFMLA, but only with the agreement of the employer.  While intermittent leave under the EFMLA is only available if the employer permits it, the USDOL encourages employers and employees to collaborate and achieve flexibility.

Scenario #3 – School is open for in-person learning but parent opts to keep their child home

In general, the EFMLA would not be available in this scenario as the school is not closed to the student but rather the parent is choosing to keep their child home.  This is not a qualifying reason for leave under the EFMLA.  Note however, that a parent who keeps their child home on the advice of a health care provider because of COVID, may qualify for FFCRA leave.  Additionally, paid sick days could be used.  The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) which expires December 31, 2020 provides 80 hours sick pay when an employee is caring for someone who has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID. Likewise, N.J. Earned Sick Leave provides 40 hours sick pay when an employee is caring for a family member.

Join us for a one-hour webinar on Thursday August 13, 2020: Employer Considerations for the Upcoming School Year