As if dealing with a global pandemic and a remote workforce isn’t challenging enough, employers will be facing another roadblock this fall when school is back in session.
Back-to-school season will be anything but normal, and most schools have opted for at least partial remote learning. This means that many parents are going to have to stay home with their children – which will cause major headaches in the workplace.
The employment law attorneys at the firm Cozen O’Connor recognize that HR pros and managers are going to have a lot of questions about how to handle this issue – so they released detailed guidance on the topic.
Emergency paid FMLA
Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), emergency paid leave is available under certain circumstances.
Here’s when employees can take paid leave under the FFCRA:
1. When their child is out of school due to COVID-19-related reasons. Up to 12 weeks of paid leave is available to employees if their child’s school or place of care is closed due to the coronavirus, and the employee is unable to work or telework.
During the first 10 days of this leave, employees may substitute accrued PTO or sick time.
2. When their child’s school is physically closed, but is in session online. Employees can take FFCRA leave if the physical location of the child’s school is closed, but they’re still expected to complete assignments.
3. When their child’s school is operating on a hybrid model, it depends. If a school is only physically open part-time, an employee may be able to take intermittent paid leave – but it’s up to the employer.
In this instance, the employee and manager can work out a modified schedule to accommodate this. It’s not required under the FFCRA, but it’s a good practice – especially if your company has a history of allowing intermittent leave in other situations.
Here’s when employees can’t take paid leave under the FFCRA:
1. When their child’s school is open, but the parent decides to homeschool them. Paid leave isn’t available in this circumstance under the FFCRA.
It’s also currently unknown whether paid leave would be available in cases where schools allow the parents to decide whether they want to send their child to school or have them learn remotely.
Continued remote work
Many employers are also concerned that it’ll be difficult for employees to work from home productively while also caring for their child and/or assisting with school work.
Here’s what Cozen O’Connor’s team had to say about that:
1. Hours still need to be recorded accurately at home. While it’s difficult to track hours worked when employees are remote, it’s still just as essential – particularly for nonexempt workers.
For employers, it’s important to communicate to your hourly workers that they’re expected to continue to track their breaks and to take note of any child care-related interruptions.
2. You aren’t required to pay currently remote employees the same salaries they earned in the office. Employers have the ability to reduce employees’ pay, but it’s important to review local and federal laws before doing so.
Also, make sure wages don’t fall below minimum wage or the overtime threshold for exempt employees.
3. You may be required to reimburse remote employees for at-home business expenses. Many states require employers to cover workers’ business expenses, so it’s important to check your local laws.
Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to do it anyway, as it can take some of the burden off your staff during this difficult time.