Thursday, July 23, 2020

Employers Should Prepare for Schools Reopening (or not)

Seems like pandemic issues hit employers and workers in waves. Deciphering and implementing FFCRA benefits, worksite closings, furloughs, layoffs, and protecting essential workers were the start. Then as workplaces slowly reopened, employers and workers alike faced the challenges of protecting employees and the public. The current wave on the rise is employers’ concerns surrounding the new school year.

School reopening decisions obviously impact employees with school-age children. In turn, school reopening decisions impact employers. It’s not too early to start planning for workplace needs when schools reopen, partially reopen, or don’t reopen in the Fall. Some important considerations include the following:
  • Employees who have not yet exhausted their expanded FMLA leave benefit under the FFCRA may take advantage of that opportunity when the school year starts if their child’s school district has partial or only online learning. This may result in operational disruptions.
  • Employees who choose not to send their children to school in districts that give parents a choice of in-person or online attendance are likely not eligible for expanded FMLA benefits because their child’s school is not closed. The DOL has not addressed this issue yet.
  • Employees may request teleworking arrangements again to accommodate online learning or partial week attendance at school by their children.
  • Employees may ask for flexible or part-time schedules to accommodate their children’s education needs.

With many schools issuing their reopening plans and the school year starting in about a month, it is important for employers to plan now. Encourage staff to communicate potential conflicts related to school reopening plans. Consider re-establishing or continuing flexible schedules and teleworking in anticipation of a school year with at least partial online learning. Understand that the school reopening dilemma may cause staff shortages when employees have to make the difficult choice of staying home to supervise online learning or reporting to the workplace. Update your teleworking policy to address the expectations of employees who are juggling working at home and online studies by their children. We will keep you up to date on developments and guidance on federal and state-guaranteed benefits for employees with school-aged children for the new school year.