Whether you’re working remotely, you’re an essential worker who never quarantined, or you are now returning to the office for in-person work – if you’re a parent, you’re facing some difficult decisions. With DeKalb, Fulton and other counties announcing virtual school this fall, the 2020 school year is going to look very different from previous years. And, even if your county has some options for in-person classes, you may still need to plan for more at-home time with your kids than you normally would.
Fortunately, thanks to new legislation passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, you may have more options than you know. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) is an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and it offers additional compensation and at least partially paid leave for families impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The FFCRA is not limitless, though. While you may be eligible for additional relief funding and/or time off, you should be aware of the basics of the new law when planning for the upcoming school year. At its most basic, there are three considerations every parent should keep in mind concerning the FFCRA:
- The FFCRA expands the protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act to provide partially paid leave to certain employees impacted by the pandemic.
- If you work for an employer with fewer than 500 employees, you may be eligible for 2 weeks of leave with pay at 2/3 of your regular if:
– You are required to quarantine because of exposure to or symptoms of COVID-19 or a doctor’s recommendation;
– You are caring for a family member that is required to quarantine; or
– You are caring for a child whose school or care provider is closed because of the pandemic.
- If you have been employed for 30 days or more, you may also be eligible for 10 additional weeks of leave with pay at 2/3 of your regular rate if you are caring for a child whose school or care provider is closed because of the pandemic.
3 Things Parents Should Consider for the 2020 School Year
- FFCRA Leave Is Not Unlimited
If your child’s school opts for virtual learning only, you may be entitled to partially paid leave under the FFCRA. However, that leave will only last a maximum of 12 weeks. Your employer may volunteer to allow you and other employees more leave, but they are not obligated to do so under the law.
- Employers May Terminate Employees Who Do Not Return to Work
Be aware of the limit on required paid leave as you plan for any time off to stay home with your child. While you may be guaranteed up to 12 weeks of partially paid leave, if you are unable to return to work after those 12 weeks, your employer may legally terminate your employment. Before you take time off to stay with your child during virtual learning, you may want to:
- Talk with your child’s school about their plans for in-person classes. Do they plan to conduct virtual school all year, or only for the first few weeks?
- Ask your employer about the possibility of remote work or adjusted working hours to accommodate your child’s virtual school schedule.
- Discuss other scheduling options with your spouse.
- Returning to Work After FFCRA Leave
Taking FFCRA leave is your right, and your employer cannot legally punish or retaliate against you for requesting or taking such leave. You have the right to return to the same or similar position that you left prior to your FFCRA leave. If you return to work to find that your position has been significantly diminished or changed, you may have an employment law case – and you should definitely speak with an attorney who specializes in FMLA and FFCRA cases.
If you’ve been denied FFCRA leave or you think that your rights as a worker have been violated, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the attorneys at Legare, Attwood & Wolfe today. We’re here for you.