The Dilemma: Back To Work Without Childcare
by Dachan J. Furnace, Esq.
You are finally being called back to work after weeks of quarantine. The initial excitement of life getting back to normal is suddenly overshadowed by the reality of not having childcare because schools and daycares remain closed. Millions of parents across Pennsylvania face the dilemma of going back to work without childcare. As a parent, do you refuse to go to back work and risk losing your job? What are your options? The answer depends on your situation. Yours may be one of these four common situations:
You Have COVID or are Experiencing Symptoms
If you have COVID, are experiencing COVID symptoms or a doctor has advised you to self-quarantine (perhaps due to exposure to someone with COVID) you are not permitted to return to work. The law prohibits you from returning to work. You should inform your employer of your situation. In addition, you may be eligible to receive either Paid Sick Leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act (FFCRA) or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA pays your average regular wage rate up to $511/day for 80 hours. The maximum you can receive is $5,110 in the aggregate.
You Are Caring for Someone With COVID
If you are caring for someone who is subject to a government-issued quarantine order, or caring for someone who has been advised to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID, the FFCRA permits you to stay at home. The person needing your care must be an immediate family member or someone who regularly resides in your home. If teleworking is an option for your job and acceptable to your employer, you should ask about that. If teleworking is not an option, you may be eligible to receive either paid leave for up to 12 weeks pursuant to the FFCRA or PUA. For the first two weeks, you will receive Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA. For up to an additional 10 weeks, you will receive Emergency Family Leave at your regular rate up to $200/day and $12,000 in the aggregate.
You Are Already Teleworking
If you are already working from home, your employer may call you back into the business location when businesses begin to open. If you are caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed and no other suitable person is available to care for your child, you should be able to continue teleworking. If that is not acceptable to your employer, you may be eligible to receive either paid Emergency Family Leave for up to 12 weeks pursuant to the FFCRA or PUA.
You Are Receiving Unemployment or Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
If you are caring for a child whose school or daycare is closed and no other suitable person is available to care for your child, you can refuse to return to work or ask that you be permitted to telework. This is where things can get a bit complicated.
Usually when you are offered work by your employer and you refuse to accept it, that refusal would disqualify you for unemployment compensation. Your employer would need to report your refusal to the state and the state change your benefit status. If you are found to be ineligible for unemployment benefits, there is still hope.
You should apply for PUA. You can receive PUA even if you have refused work if the reason is that you are caring for a child or family member under the circumstances mentioned above. You may also be eligible to receive either paid Emergency Family Leave pursuant to the FFCRA. These are general guidelines only. Not all employers are required to comply with the FFCRA. There are also consequences of refusing a return to work. The details of your situation can impact your eligible for any of the benefits mentioned above. In addition, your employer may not fully understand its responsibilities under the quickly changing laws applicable to COVID. If you have been called back to work, we can help you understand all your rights and options. You will be better prepared to have a conversation with your employer after first reviewing your situation with us.