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The under-appreciated right to take paid leave during remote learning.

September 21, 2020 by in "Two Minute Takeaway"

As schools open remotely this Fall, parents struggle to meet the demands of work and new remote learning responsibilities.  Many parents don’t know that the recent “Families First” Act allows them to take a paid leave of absence to attend to home schooling.  

The new law allows qualifying parents to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave from work, while receiving up to two-thirds of their base pay, with a cap of $200 per day.  The Families First law covers employees who need a leave of absence from work “because of a need to care for the employee’s son or daughter whose school or place of care is closed, or whose child care provider is unavailable, due to coronavirus related reasons.”  This is a uniquely generous program, as the law typically does not provide any leave of absence for the care of school age children, let alone a paid leave of absence. 

The law covers employees of companies with fewer than 500 employees, and provides a hardship exemption for companies with less than 50 employees.   The employer is initially responsible for making the leave payments.  But the employer may then recover any amounts paid through a tax “credit” that permits the employer to reduce future payroll tax obligations.  For example, if the employer pays $5,000 in leave payments it can offset future payroll taxes in that amount.  So the ultimate financial burden is on Uncle Sam.  The program ends December 31, 2020.