Q: We have an employee who elected to have their child learn remotely this fall although the school is holding in-person classes. Are they eligible for federal paid leave benefits?
A: Schools across Connecticut are reopening and individual school districts have released plans on how they intend to have students return to learning safely.
Some school districts are returning to school for full-time in-person learning.
Many districts are taking a hybrid approach of in-person and distance learning to limit the number of students in the school and promote social distancing.
Some districts are giving the parents the option to choose full distance learning over in-person classes.
Generally, paid family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act may be available for employees and workers who can’t work from home in cases where their child’s school is closed for COVID-19 related reasons.
However, in cases where the school district has given employees the option of either online and in-person learning for their children, employees who choose to educate their children from home are not eligible for FFCRA benefits.
In such cases, the school isn’t considered closed and the worker cannot receive the benefit.
The U.S. Department of Labor released guidance on how the FFCRA applies to common scenarios employees with children will face as schools reopen.
In the case of a hybrid-based or alternate day attendance learning model, employees are eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA on days when the child is not permitted to attend the school in person and must engage in remote learning.
For purposes of the FFCRA and its implementing regulations, the school is effectively closed to the employee’s child on those days.
Accordingly, provided that the employee needs the leave to actually care for the child during that time and if no other suitable person is available to do so, the employee may take paid leave on the child’s remote-learning days.
In cases where employees choose the remote learning alternative for a child over in-person instruction, paid leave under the FFCRA is not available.
This is because the school is not closed due to COVID-19 related reasons; it is considered open for the child to attend. FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance.
The employee is eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA while the employee’s child’s school remains closed. If the child's school reopens, the availability of paid leave under the FFCRA depends on the particulars of the school’s operations.
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