Just in time for the start of the school year, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) added to its long list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) for workers and employers about qualifying for paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) related to the reopening of schools.

This guidance explains eligibility for paid leave relative to the varied formats and schedules schools have announced as they plan to reopen, including hybrid models melding in-person with distance learning. The DOL addressed three different scenarios.

Hybrid Learning

The DOL stated that parents are eligible to take paid leave at times when their child is on a hybrid/remote learning schedule and is not in school, as long as the parent needs the leave to actually care for the child during that time and only if no other suitable person is available to do so. For purposes of the FFCRA and its implementing regulations, the school is effectively “closed” to the child on days that he or she cannot attend in person.

Optional Remote Learning

On the contrary, where a school provides an option for remote or in person learning, and the parents opt for remote learning out of preference or safety concerns, the parent is not eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA because the child’s school is not “closed” due to COVID–19 related reasons. FFCRA leave is not available to take care of a child whose school is open for in-person attendance. However, if, because of COVID-19, a child is under a quarantine order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-isolate or self-quarantine, the parent may be eligible to take paid leave to care for him or her.

Mid-Semester Changes

The DOL indicated that in a scenario where a child’s school is beginning the school year under a remote learning program out of concern for COVID-19, but has announced that it will continue to evaluate local circumstances and make a decision about reopening for in-person attendance later in the school year, the parent will be eligible to take paid leave under the FFCRA while the child’s school is closed. If the school reopens, the availability of paid leave will depend on the particulars of the school’s operations.

Although there are many uncertainties around how the school year will look, these additions to the FAQs provide some much needed clarity.