School work is done for this academic year and kids are moping around, bored because their summer camp plans were cancelled due to COVID-19. Are employees able to take leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to care for their kids because their summer programs have been cancelled? Which programs qualify and what documentation must be provided? On June 26, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published Field Assistance Bulletin No. 2020-4 to answer these questions and more.
“Place of Care” includes Summer Camps and Enrichment Programs
FFCRA leave may be taken when an employee is unable to work because he or she needs to care for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons. As defined in the FFCRA regulations, a “place of care” is a physical location in which care is provided for the employee’s child while the employee is working. Examples of covered places of care include schools, preschools, before and after school care programs, summer camps, and summer enrichment programs.
Enrollment or a Plan to Attend Camp Can Be Sufficient
Because most summer camps and programs were not operating at the time the FFCRA went into effect at the beginning of April 2020, employers often ask how to know if a specific summer camp or program would have served as a place of care for an employee’s child, absent a COVID-19 closure. The DOL states that there must be some evidence to show that it is more likely than not that the child would have attended the camp or program had it not closed due to COVID-19. Sufficient evidence may include:
- Enrollment in the camp or program before it announced a closure
- Affirmative steps short of actual enrollment, such as submission of an application or a deposit, being on a waitlist, etc.
- Prior attendance at the camp or program during the summer of 2018 or 2019, indicating that it would again be the child’s place of care for the summer of 2020, had it not closed due to COVID-19
- Other indicators that a particular camp or program would have been the child’s place of care this summer
Importantly, a parent or child’s mere interest in a camp or program, without more, generally is not enough. The DOL stated that this approach to planned summer enrollments is similar to the closing of other places of care, such as day care centers. An employee would not be entitled to take FFCRA leave based on the closing of a day care center that his or her child never attended or planned to attend. Rather, there must be some indication that the child would have attended the center had it not closed in response to COVID-19.
Partial Closures May Meet FFCRA Requirements to Trigger Leave
Summer camps and programs need not be completely closed due to COVID-19 in order to trigger FFCRA leave, but the closure must affect the employee’s child so that the employee needs to provide care to the child due to the closure. In other words, if a specific camp is operating at a reduced capacity or on alternate schedules and an employee’s child is unable to attend due to the restriction, the camp will be considered “closed” for FFCRA purposes and the employee may be eligible to take FFCRA leave to care for his or her child.
Summer School Qualifies, if Closed Due to COVID-19
In addition to summer camps and enrichment programs, summer school that is required by the school normally attended by the child also is treated as the child’s school for FFCRA purposes. Consequently, if summer school is cancelled or closed due to COVID-19, an employee whose child would have attended summer school may be entitled to FFCRA leave if unable to work due to caring for his or her child.
Documentation of Summer Camp or Program Closure
An employee who requests FFCRA leave to care for his or her child based on the closure of a summer
camp, summer enrichment program, or other summer program must provide the same documentation and information as for a regular school or place of care closure. That means the employee must provide the name of the specific summer camp or program that would have been the place of care for the child had it not closed. The employee also must provide the name of his or her child (or children) and a statement that no other suitable person is available to provide care. Employers that wish to seek tax credits for the paid portion of FFCRA leaves may need to provide additional documentation to support the credit and should retain all related documentation for each employee provided FFCRA leave.
The DOL guidance on summer camp and program COVID-19 closures reminds employers that eligibility for leave under these circumstances must be considered on a case-by-case basis as there is no one-size-fits-all rule on it. Require the necessary information to show that the child would have attended the summer camp or program had it not been closed due to COVID-19 reasons and that the employee needs to care for the child due to that place-of-care closure. Remember too that FFCRA leave is available only if the employee is unable to work or telework due to providing such care.
If you’re looking for assistance managing claims or to ensure compliance across your organization, ReedGroup has solutions for you. Learn more here.
Information provided on this blog is intended for general educational use. It is not intended to provide legal advice. ReedGroup does not provide legal services. Consult an attorney for legal advice on this or any other topic.