Right now many school districts are requiring parents to choose between returning to traditional school and online learning this upcoming 2020-2021 school year. However, if you are working, this choice could impact your job security.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows eligible employees, who cannot work (including telework) because their child(ren)’s school is closed due to the pandemic, to take paid job-protected leave. (Want to know more about the FFCRA? Check out our prior blog on the FFCRA). This raised the question: When schools re-open this fall, are you still entitled to paid sick leave or expanded FMLA leave?
When a school provides a physical location for students to return for learning, and you choose not to return to the physical school location, you may not be entitled to the FFCRA leave benefits. In its Q&A guidance, the U.S. Department of Labor says that you are eligible for FFCRA leave benefits if “the physical location where your child received instruction or care is now closed”. So, even if you choose online learning because of pandemic concerns, if your kids’ school re-opens and allows students to return in person, then your entitlement to paid sick leave or expanded FMLA may be lost.
This does not change your rights to paid sick leave or expanded FMLA if you need leave for other pandemic related reasons covered by the FFCRA. For example, if a medical professional advises that your child should quarantine due to the virus, then you can still qualify for the paid sick leave. You can also qualify for traditional unpaid FMLA leave to care for your child’s serious health condition.
Be aware that these FFCRA benefits do not last forever or even the full upcoming school year. Congress put an expiration date on these paid leave benefits. This means that after December 31, 2020, employees will not be able to take advantage of these benefits, unless Congress specifically amends the law.