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The Bottom Line: Employers on hook to pay additional leave for parents because of virtual schooling, child care closures

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Many school districts across Kentucky will begin classes virtually after Gov. Andy Beshear’s recommendation that schools push back their in-person start dates to Sept. 28. The state has also seen the closure of many child care centers because of restrictions and capacity issues. These changes have created a renewed requirement on some employers to provide additional paid leave.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) passed earlier this year created new temporary paid leave programs for employers with less than 500 employees which have to be paid in addition to any leave a company already offers.

When it comes to how virtual schooling plays a role, the expanded Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Program allows an employee to take up to 10 weeks of paid leave and be paid two-thirds (2/3) of the employee’s regular rate of pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day or $10,000 in aggregate. The first ten days for which an employee takes leave for this reason may be unpaid. However, during that initial 10-day period, an employee could be entitled to receive qualified sick leave benefits under the FFCRA or may be eligible to receive other forms of employer-provided paid leave, like accrued sick leave, annual leave, or other paid time off.

Those eligible for paid FLMA leave include any employee that has been on the company’s payroll for 30 days prior to leave and is unable to work or telework because of a need to take care of a child under age 18 because of a school closure or child care being unavailable due to COVID-19.

Eligible companies will be reimbursed by the federal government for the leave through a refundable tax credit. The tax credit can be claimed immediately by reducing employment tax withholdings submitted to the IRS. And certain self-employed individuals in similar circumstances are entitled to claim similar credits.

Additionally, there is an opt-out option for small businesses with less than 50 employees and certain employers in the health care and front-line provider industries are exempt.

This is not a new program and some employers and employees may have gained experience with it during school closures earlier this spring. But, with the arrival of “Back to School” season and Gov. Beshear’s recent recommendation, the FFCRA’s FMLA expansion is getting renewed attention.

Find more information on the leave provided for employees through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act here.