As the new school year approaches, some California employers will have to deal with the continued closure of schools, which impacts many working parents, and consequently their employers. Already, the Los Angeles, San Diego and Sacramento Unified School Districts have announced they will not re-open in the fall. (Read the California Department of Public Health Reopening Framework). Schools can only re-open if the county in which they are located does not appear on the County Monitoring List within the prior 14 days (See California’s county monitoring updates). This means working parents may have to continue to juggle the demands of work, child care and home-schooling. Employers should remember to evaluate whether their employees are entitled to use unpaid and paid leave provided under federal, state and local laws because of school closures caused by the pandemic.
Generally, under federal law, if their child’s school or child care provider has closed, employees of employers with fewer than 500 employees are entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and receive 10 days of paid leave every 12 months, calculated using one of the four options under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This school closure benefit is only available through Dec. 31, 2020, and an employee must not have already exhausted his/her unpaid FMLA leave for the 12-month period to use it.
In California, employees are entitled to use accrued or granted paid sick leave for the care and preventive care of a child after providing reasonable advance notice, or as soon as practicable. Preventative care may include self-quarantine due to potential exposure to COVID-19, if quarantine is recommended by civil authorities. Also, some cities and counties require employers with greater than 500 employees nationwide to grant paid sick leave to employees whose child’s school or child care provider has closed. These include the cities of Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, and San José, and counties of Los Angeles, San Mateo, and Santa Rosa.
To the extent employers have not already done so, now is the time to plan long-term for the impact school closures may have on the workplace, including updating any potentially applicable leave policies.