Do we have to pay employees who have children no longer in school (due to school closures) and who are not working?

Employers have several options to consider.

In California, employers with 25 or more employees working at the same location must 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.

Another option is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Effective from April 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, the law provided a new federal paid sick leave law and an emergency expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for COVID-19-related school closures. The leave mandate expired on December 31, 2020, but Congress extended the ability of employers to obtain tax credits for providing this leave to employees through March 2021. In other words, employers can, at their discretion, provide leave under the FFCRA framework for school closures and be reimbursed through tax credits.

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

Read more about school activities leave and remote working on Options for Employers, Employees During School Closures on the HRWatchdog blog.