Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents of young children have been reasonably concerned about how to manage their jobs with the unanticipated need to care for their children due to school and daycare closures. On March 18, Congress enacted the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (“FFCRA”), allowing up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave to cover employees who need to care for a child because the child’s school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19.
However, as summer arrived and schools closed for regularly scheduled break, the law was unsettled as to whether FFCRA leave would apply to other forms of childcare during the summer, such as summer camps and programs children would normally attend.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (“WHD”) finally provided guidance to clarify its stance on this issue with the publication of Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-4 on June 26. The bulletin states that eligible employees may take paid FFCRA or extended leave if a minor child’s summer camp (or other like summer program) is closed due to COVID-19. To qualify for this FFCRA leave, an employee must have had a plan for the child to attend the camp or program.
If an employer has a sufficient reason to be skeptical of whether such a plan existed, the employer should determine whether it is still more likely than not that the child would have attended the camp or program had it not closed due to COVID-19. Prior attendance and current eligibility may establish a summer camp or program as the child’s planned place of care. However, the WHD specifically states that “a parent’s mere interest in a camp or program is generally not enough” to qualify.
If an employee wishes to take FFCRA leave for these reasons, the employee must provide:
- The reasons for the requested leave,
- The name of the child and care facility that the child would have attended but for the closure, and
- A statement that no other suitable person is available to care for the child.
The employer may require the employee to submit this information in writing. It is imperative for employers to continue to obtain documentation from employees taking FFCRA leave to comply with recordkeeping requirements and to obtain tax credits afforded to employers under the FFCRA.