Working parents may be eligible for paid time off to care for children who are stuck at home because of school or childcare provider closures due to COVID-19. If your employer has not advised you about your options for leave, paid or unpaid, ask for them together with coworkers so everyone can get the info!
If leave is not available to you, unemployment benefits may be the best long-term solution and are addressed at the end of this article.
Paid Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)
Your employer is not required to provide you with FFCRA leave after December 31, 2020 but may voluntarily do so and can be reimbursed for the costs through tax credits until March 31, 2021.
What is it? Up to 12 weeks of partially-paid leave for childcare purposes:
- Up to 2 weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave at 2/3 your regular rate of pay or applicable minimum wage (whichever is higher), and
- an additional 10 weeks of expanded family leave for workers who have been employed for at least 30 calendar days.
- Intermittent leave may be available if you need to take leave for a few hours a day or a few days per week.
- Health insurance, if provided by job, must continue.
Who is eligible? Most workers at employers with 500 or fewer employees. While covered employers are no longer required to provide this leave, they may do so voluntarily and be reimbursed for the costs through a tax credit until March 31, 2021.
- You must be unable to work due to a need to care for your child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons.
- If your child’s school or place of care has moved online then it is considered “closed” under the FFCRA.
What do I need to do to request FFCRA leave? Inform your employer that you need to take leave and provide, in writing:
- The name of your child; the name of the school, place of care, or child care provider that has closed or become unavailable; and a statement that no other suitable person is available to care for your child.
Employers may not know about recent changes to the FFCRA or that the tax credits are still available. It is important to talk to your coworkers about asking for FFCRA leave as a group, or via a petition or letter. That way your employer will know multiple workers need leave for childcare.
For more information on FFCRA leave visit this FAQ from the Department of Labor.
Paid Leave Under Philadelphia’s Paid Sick Leave Ordinance
What is it?
- Up to one week (40 hours) of paid leave at your regular rate of pay if you are unable to work because you need to care for your child whose school is closed or care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19.
- Leave is accrued, meaning you earn 1 hour of leave for every 40 hours worked.
Who is eligible?
- Philadelphia workers whose employers have 10 or more employees (if less, leave is unpaid).
- You must have worked at least 40 hours in the past year in Philadelphia and been at your job for at least 90 days.
What if my employer refuses to provide Philly paid sick leave?
- If your employer refuses to provide leave or retaliates against you for requesting or using leave, you can file a complaint with the Philadelphia Mayor’s Office of Labor by calling (215) 686-0802 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find more info at the City’s sick leave website.
**this law may be expanded soon to cover more workers, check back for more info!
Unemployment Benefits if You are Out of Work Due to Lack of Childcare
First, work with your employer and document your efforts!
- If you are unable to return to work or need to leave your job due to lack of childcare, you should inform your employer of the problem and try to find a solution that would allow you to continue working. Especially as preserving a job may preserve health insurance!
- You should document these efforts in writing, if possible, for evidence in case your employer disputes the reason for your separation from employment.
If you are currently receiving UC/PUA and are being called back to work:
- If you are unable to return to work due to lack of childcare, you may have good reason to refuse an offer to return to work and should remain eligible for unemployment benefits.
- This determination will be made by the State and depend on the specific facts of your case. Hold on to emails or texts to document!
If you are currently working and have to reduce your hours or leave your job due to lack of childcare:
- You should be eligible to apply for regular Unemployment Compensation (UC) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
- Apply for UC first. PUA is for workers who don’t qualify for UC.
Childcare Options for Philadelphia Caregivers
The City of Philadelphia is partnering with community-based organizations to open neighborhood “Access Centers” that will support Philadelphia students entering kindergarten through sixth grade this fall. These Access Centers are available by registration only and are free of charge. For more information, call (215) 709-5366 or visit Philadelphia’s Access Centers website.
These issues are complicated.
Do you have questions or need help negotiating with your employer?
CLS may be able to help.
Call 215-981-3700 and leave a message that you would like help with an employment case.