In HR Dive's Mailbag series, we answer HR professionals' questions about all things work. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]
Q: An employee exhausted their available Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) leave and needs more time off for continued school closures. What do we do?
A: "Leave is only the start of the equation," according to Laura Lawless, a labor and employment partner at Squire Patton Boggs. After all, there are plenty of workers — such as those at large corporations — not covered by the FFCRA, she explained.
It's certainly imperative for HR to consider other types of leave to which employees are entitled, Lawless said. Some states, for example, have enacted mandates similar to the FFCRA. There's vacation and other paid time off benefits to consider, too.
But according to Lawless, this is a time for HR professionals to go beyond compliance minimums and demonstrate nimbleness and an ability to see issues from multiple angles. Employers are under no obligation to make telework or flex-time arrangements, but a lot of companies are doing that to prevent a mass exodus, Lawless said.
"It's a time when employers have to be very flexible in their thinking," she said. "This is also a time to think about what you should do, [not just] what you have to do." Think of it as "an opportunity to stand apart from your peers," she recommended; employees will remember how they were treated during this time and, if treated well, will respond with loyalty.
Of course, HR also will have to consider the implications of such changes. If employees scale hours back considerably, employers may need to notify workers about potential shifts in benefits eligibility. COBRA, for example, often is only thought about during terminations but the law's notice requirements can be triggered by furloughs or hours reductions, Lawless explained; "it's something to make sure you're keeping an eye on."
Even as school begins across the country, additional employee protections don't appear to be on the way. Still, it's a possibility as the mandate nears its Dec. 31 sunset date. "If we still see school closures we could see a groundswell," Lawless said, "but right now there's no reason to think it'll be extended."