As employers begin planning for a return to work, child care needs may impact workers’ ability to resume normal schedules. As states extend school closure orders, the availability of child care and camps through the summer remains in doubt. Without reliable child care alternatives, many employees will struggle to find options that allow them to return to work.
Employers have a number of options for dealing with these situations. For employers with fewer than 500 employees, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) may provide employees with job-protected paid leave for up to 12 weeks due to child care unavailability. Outside of these legal requirements, some employers may consider allowing employees to bring children to work or even establishing temporary child care services. These options raise obvious financial and liability concerns, including the potential for children in the workplace to interfere with COVID-19 exposure control efforts.
Other options include extending telework arrangements or providing paid or unpaid leaves of absence. Any such plans should be set forth in a written employer policy and should be consistently applied to employees in similar circumstances. In some situations, employers may decide that they cannot accommodate employees who are unable to return to work due to child care needs. In general, outside of FFCRA, employers are not legally required to accommodate such needs and could decide as a last resort to terminate employment.
Employers should monitor additional federal and state legislative developments that address employee child care needs.
You can find our additional COVID-19 alerts here.