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Employment Law Notebook

Summer Blues: Camp Closures Forcing Working Parents to Take Time Off to Care for Kids

Many working parents who normally send their children to attend or work at a camp or other summer programs are contending with difficult decisions now that many camps and summer enrichment programs have announced closures due to COVID-19.  Employers should expect to receive many more requests for time off this summer from employees with children at home.

Remote learning due to school closures already created challenges for working parents who are spending many hours of their day assisting their children with online and other school activities. But for parents one of the benefits of remote learning at this stay-at-home time has been the hours of structure that it has provided to children. With the school year soon coming to an end and camp and enrichment programs cancelled, many working parents are now faced with the daunting task of having to fill hours of the day with activities for their children at a time when limited activities outside of the home are open.  This means that many parents will need more time off this summer to be with and take care of their kids.

If one spouse or guardian in a household has already taken paid time off under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) due to school closure, that individual's 12 weeks of leave will likely run out early in the summer.  This may prompt that employee to request additional time off from work to care for children during the summer or prompt the other spouse or guardian to take FFCRA leave for the first time on a part time, full time or intermittent basis so that a parent or guardian is available to care for the child.  All of this is permissible under the FFCRA as summer camps and summer enrichment programs qualify as "places of care". The law, which is applicable to employees working for employers with less than 500 employees that don't meet the small business exception, provides up to 12 weeks of leave to an employee who cannot work because their child’s place of care is closed due to COVID-19. (Employers of health care workers and first responders have the choice of whether to offer this type of FFCRA paid leave to such employees).

Employers should be flexible in responding to these requests and try to help working parents during this challenging time.  To be sure they get the tax credit available to employers who provide FFCRA leave, employers must get written documentation from employees requesting leave indicating that a child’s summer camp or enrichment program is cancelled.

For more information on the FFCRA, see https://www.mfglegal.com/march-madness-weekly-update-new-federal-nj-employment-laws-related-coronavirus