Key to remember: Employees might still be entitled to paid leave if their children’s summer camp or program is called off.
Applies to: All public employers and private employers with fewer than 500 employees in the U.S.
Impact to customers: Many employees usually have their children in summer programs; employers need to understand how the FFCRA applies.
Possible impact to JJK products/services: This article will be in the FMLA Manager.
Perhaps you remember the fun and learning opportunities you had at summer camp, no matter what type of camp it was. Perhaps your have continued the tradition with your children. This year, however, the camp opportunities may be different. So are the workplace laws around employees who need time off to care for their children if those children’s summer camps are closed. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) may apply in situations in which summer camps are closed. How will you, as an employer, know when it does?
Determining whether a school or daycare that closed for COVID-19-related reasons was fairly easy, since the child had been attending when it closed. Unlike schools and day care centers, however, many summer camps and programs closed in response to COVID-19 before any children began to attend and, in some cases, before they began to enroll. Such camps and programs therefore would not have been places of care of any child at the time they closed. Accordingly, determining whether a camp or program is the place of care of an employee’s child may be confusing. Employees may establish whether they planned to send a child to summer camp in many ways; no one-size-fits-all solution exists.
To help make this determination, you may require employees who requests leave to care for his or her child based on the closure of a summer camp, summer enrichment program, or other summer program to 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. This requirement may be satisfied if the child, for example, applied to or was enrolled in the summer camp or program before it closed, or if the child attended the camp or program in prior summers and was eligible to attend again. There may be other circumstances that show an employee’s child’s enrollment or planned enrollment in a camp or program.
Current or prior enrollment is not, however, required. If, for example, a child met the age requirement only this year, prior enrollment would be impractical. Being put on a waiting list pending the reopening of a camp could be enough.
A summer camp/program may also be “closed” for purposes of FFCRA leave if it is partially closed for reasons related to COVID-19, i.e., operating at a reduced capacity, such that some children that would have attended that camp or program this summer may no longer do so. In such instances, you would apply the same analysis as to whether the child would have attended that specific summer camp or program but for its partial closure due to COVID-19 is applicable.
Evidence should exist of a plan for the child to attend the camp or program or, short of a plan, whether it is still more likely than not that the child would have attended the camp or program had it not closed due to COVID-19. But a parent’s mere interest in a camp or program is generally not enough. Affirmative steps short of actual enrollment may also be enough. If, for example, the summer camp or program has an application process, submission of an application before the camp’s closure may establish the camp or program as the child’s planned place of care during the summer; submission of a deposit may also establish intent to enroll.
Employers, with all this ambiguity, it’s time to be flexible and not overly demanding on what evidence you call for to help determine whether a child would have gone to camp. The lawsuits over failure to provide FFCRA leave have been increasing, and you likely don’t want to be a part of that movement.
This article was written by Darlene M. Clabault, SHRM-CP, PHR, CLMS, of J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. The content of these news items, in whole or in part, MAY NOT be copied into any other uses without consulting the originator of the content.