COVID-19 E-FMLA Parental Leave Under the FFCRA

As the school year gets into full swing, working parents are learning new and creative ways to juggle home and work life. Whether your employees’ children are learning and working from home or spending their days in-person learning, the challenges faced by all are new. For employers, we not only want to do our best to support those who are working and learning from home but also to prepare a support system for parents with children in school, in case of an emergency. The Department of Labor (DOL) has provided additional guidance on how to best support families and when leave should be offered by creating the Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act (E-FMLA) as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

The FFCRA provides guidance specifically to organizations with fewer than 500 employees, requiring them to offer up to 80-hours at two-thirds pay (up to $200 per day) in additional sick leave. This leave can be used if an individual cannot work because their child needs to be home because of COVID-19, the child’s school has closed, or the school has moved to e-learning.

The FFCRA requires that organizations with fewer than 500 employees allow emergency leave for parents who cannot work because their child’s school has closed, or their child needs to be home due to coronavirus. This leave specifically can be used all at once, or intermittently.  Currently, federal regulations require that the employer and employee agree on when and why this leave is used, and that information be provided in writing for the reason it is being used. Some states, such as New York, have taken it one step further and are requiring that employers accept any reasonable requests to use this leave due to their child’s school or childcare facility closing. Many states and local governments have expanded leave and other supports for employees through COVID-19, be sure to keep an eye on all levels of regulation to ensure you comply.

As part of the FFCRA, the DOL created the E-FMLA, expanding on what the Family Medical Leave Act can cover, providing additional supports for families during the COVID-19 crisis. Under E-FMLA, an individual may take two weeks of unpaid leave and ten weeks at two-thirds pay (up to $200 per day). This leave is a part of the total traditional FMLA leave of 12 weeks in 12 months, and the traditional rules must be followed. To use their FMLA, employees must provide, in writing, information about the circumstances of their leave. With that, employers can claim a tax credit from the IRS.

To make things additionally clear, the DOL has outlined when a school is considered closed. If a school is offering in-person learning and the employee chooses to school their child from home, E-FMLA is not available for use.  If the school is operating in a ‘hybrid’ model, E-FMLA is available only on the days that the child must be at home.  If school is 100% remote, E-FMLA is available for use.      not to send their child to school they are not eligible for the FFCRA or E-FMLA leave on the days that the school would be open for in-person learning.

This new (and continually updated) legislation has provided some guidance on handling this ever-changing situation and offers a way to alleviate some of the stress of balancing work and home life for your employees. No matter the situation, ensuring that your employees know their rights and that you are in compliance with all local, state, and federal laws will help your organization to continue to succeed and maintain the organizational culture and employee loyalty through these hard times. 

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