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Employers Should Prepare for How the School Year Will Affect Employees

August 6, 2020

By Linda Olejniczak, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

The case for reopening schools and day care centers during the pandemic is strong. However, reopening schools also means exposing more kids to the virus, which could mean 14-day quarantines for families.  What does this mean for employees and employers?

In April, the government passed legislation to help working parents. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) mandates employers with less than 500 employees provide two kinds of paid leave:

  1. Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) – gives up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid leave for parents who must stay home with their children because of school/day care closures due to COVID-19. This leave is also available for other COVID-related reasons.
  2. Expanded Family Medical Leave Act (eFMLA) – gives up to an additional 10 weeks leave for parents who must stay home with their children because of school/day care closures due to COVID-19.


These leave provisions are helpful, but not a long-term solution for either the company or the parent. 12 weeks goes by fast, and for some smaller businesses, they may not be able to afford to have people out on leave andnew people doing the jobs for those who are out. This is a difficult and emotionally charged situation.

According to a recent USA TODAY article, we should prepare for inevitable disruptions now, and employers can take the lead. For instance, employers can develop back-up staffing plans and cross-train employees to perform essential functions, like hospitals did when their staff were getting sick or needing to quarantine. Employers could also explore expanded and nonpunitive paid family leave, flexible work schedules and locations for parents, and subsidized emergency childcare when schools or day cares close unexpectedly. 

In addition to the ideas from the article, in a recent ASE member roundtable they discussed offering:

  • Work-from-home programs
  • Job share programs
  • Ability to change shifts

The CDC has developed the School Decision-Making Tool for Parents, Caregivers, and Guardians who are given a choice about how their child will return to school in the fall.  This tool is designed to help think through school re-entry and the choices that schools are offering.

Employers need to be flexible and open minded to solutions that keep people working and businesses open. As HR professionals, there has never been a better time to get creative and develop solutions for those employees who must also now be teachers.

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