With Kids at Home, Parents May Have the Right to Paid and Unpaid Leave

Many parents throughout the Washington, D.C., metro area are preparing for a semester of remote schooling for their children. The primary concern for parents, of course, is the well-being of their kids. However, parents will have another important concern that dovetails with their children’s education: taking time off from work to accommodate childcare.

Though many employers have accommodated their employees’ need for paid or unpaid leave, others have not been as flexible. For some working parents, enforcing their right to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) or even their usual paid vacation or sick time has been a struggle.

Options for Employees

Earlier this year, Congress passed several measures to grant more paid and unpaid leave to American workers. These measures include the:

  • Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act: Employers with more than 50 workers but fewer than 500 workers must grant up to 10 days of paid leave to employees.
  • Emergency Family Medical Leave Expansion Act: Through December of 2020, employees can use FMLA to care for children whose schools are closed.

Working parents stand to benefit greatly from these acts, as they provide more opportunities to provide for children affected by closed schools. In addition to these new measures, qualifying employees can also use their existing paid time off, sick leave and FMLA leave.

Enforcing the Right to Paid or Unpaid Leave

With that said, employers do not always comply with the request to exercise their time-off benefits. Although it is against the law to withhold such benefits from eligible employees, far too many employers get away with it.

To use EPSLA or FMLA leave, employees should request time off from their employers. It is a violation of employment law for an employer to deny this time off when a worker has a qualifying reason. Workers should carefully document their interactions with their employer, including the reasons for the denial.

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