Do we have to pay employees who have children no longer in school (due to COVID-19-related school closures) and who aren't working?

California law requires employers with 25 or more employees working at the same location to permit employees to take time off for certain child-related activities, including to address a child-care provider or school emergency. Such an emergency includes closure or unexpected unavailability of the school or child-care provider.

Employees may take up to 40 hours each year for school activities. The leave is usually limited to eight hours per month, but employees may be able to use all 40 hours for the current school closures.

Employers can require the employee to use existing vacation, PTO or other personal leave, while on school activities/emergency leave, unless prohibited by a collective bargaining agreement. Depending on the employer’s policies, the employee may also take the leave unpaid. According to the California Labor Commissioner, a parent may also choose to use paid sick leave.

Additionally, if possible, employers may offer remote work options.

In the past, there were additional options under California’s COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave and the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Those laws have expired; however, several local jurisdictions passed their own supplemental paid sick leave ordinances, some of which provide leave to take care of children when their school closes down due to COVID-19. Many local supplemental paid sick leave ordinances expired along with the federal and state programs, but others are still in effect. Employers should review their local ordinances to see if they need to provide paid leave for COVID-19 related school closures.

Read more about COVID-19-related ordinances in Local Ordinances.