Why business owners need to pay attention to back-to-school in the year 2020.

 In Employment Law

As we approach fall, schools and parents are struggling with how to start the school year.  As a business owner, this struggle will soon reach your door.  Talk with employees now about what their child’s school or care center has for back-to-school plans so that everyone is prepared for what is sure to be a bumpy ride.

In March of 2020, the Federal government passed legislation that requires employers to grant Family Medical Leave and provide mandatory pay to employees if they need to be off work due to:

  • A quarantine;
  • The employee or someone they care for is suffering from COVID like symptoms; or
  • The employee’s need to address childcare because of unavailability of school or childcare due to COVID. 

Why is this important to my business?

While the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) usually only applies to employers with 50 or more employees, this new emergency expanded leave and sick pay impacts employers with 1 employee.  Businesses must document, collect information, track this time, and ensure that pay is appropriately charged.

How much leave can my employee take?

This new leave allows for an employee to be off work for up to 10 days without any penalty, if the employee is: quarantining due to a government or physician order, experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms, or caring for someone who is quarantined or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

In addition, employees can take up to 12 weeks off if they are caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19. The 12 weeks can be taken intermittently over a 12 month period or all at once.

What’s this about mandatory pay?

Perhaps you have a business that does not pay when employees are not working.  Perhaps you have sick leave or PTO.  Well, now you need to be aware of a new/other category – mandatory sick leave. 

If an employee is told to quarantine or is experiencing symptom of COVID-19 and is seeking treatment, you will have to pay them at 100% of their normal rate for 10 work days.  This pay cannot be charged against any sick/PTO time that the employee might also have available.

If an employee is caring for someone told to quarantine or is experiencing symptoms, they are to receive two-thirds of their pay while on leave for up to 10 work days.  Employees may use their sick/PTO time for the remaining one-third of pay. 

If the employee must provide care for a child whose school or child care center is closed, they must receive two-thirds of their pay for up to 12 weeks.

What does “school closed” mean this fall? 

Plan now for a good communication strategy with your employees.  Understand that short-term childcare may not be available when needed. If an employee has a student who is sent home to quarantine because the student has had potential contact with a person positive for COVID-19, you must pay that employee two-thirds pay for up to 10 days.  If an employee has a student whose school, building, or classroom is closed for a period of time due to COVID-19, that employee can collect two-thirds pay for up to 12 weeks. 

What do I do now?

Communication, documentation and flexibility will be key as we move into fall.  If your business has returned employees from telework, be prepared to have employees bounce back and forth between telework and in-person work.  If you are in an industry that does not accommodate telework, plan ahead for how to resolve staffing issues.

If you think your employee might be affected and qualify for expanded FMLA or mandatory sick leave, you must start the conversation or risk legal issues in the future. Provide forms for employees to formally respond to your inquiry. Think about if your employee qualifies for the new FMLA leave before you take adverse employment action.

Need assistance navigating the road ahead?  Call us at (937) 424-8556 or email us at staff@jhallc.com.

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