Employees Have Used Up Their FFCRA Child Care Leave, But School’s Not Reopening. Now What?

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After months of closure, schools and day care facilities remain closed in many locations, and parents may need to remain home with young children as a result. For parents who work for employers with fewer than 500 employees and who have been unable to work remotely, the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) offered much-needed relief to address this scenario, as the law provided up to twelve weeks of paid family leave, but that leave may be running out soon—if not exhausted already—for many employees who still need to find child care as schools and child care options remain closed due to the pandemic.

Some employers may wish to explore the possibility of having employees who have exhausted FFCRA benefits work reduced or modified schedules to allow them to accommodate child care needs. Or, if that alternative isn’t feasible, then furloughs may be an option. Although the enhanced $600 federal unemployment supplement provided for by the CARES Act is expiring tomorrow, it is important to remember that an employee on unpaid furlough may qualify for unemployment benefits. The remaining unemployment provisions of the CARES Act remain in effect, including those related to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (which, among other things, offer unemployment benefits to individuals who are ineligible for regular unemployment benefits and are the “primary caregivers” of children at home due to COVID-19-related school or care facility closures). Many states, including Texas, have also expanded their unemployment programs to protect individuals who cannot accept an offer to return to work due to their child care obligations. Employers whose employees have run out of paid family leave should consider informing affected employees, including those who now may find themselves on unpaid leave, of these potential benefits.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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