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Should Your Paid Leave Program Apply to School Closures?

  • CEO of women’s workplace and employment resources calls for businesses to offer paid leave for child care disruptions
  • Child care reliability has become more tenuous during the COVID-19 pandemic, as infections can create prolonged interruptions
  • Some small businesses can be exempt from providing paid sick leave or expanded family leave for COVID-19 related school or child care closures

Summary by Dirk Langeveld

Child care responsibilities have been a major disruptive force during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working parents struggled to balance work responsibilities with raising their children as the virus forced the closure of schools and daycare centers. The stress of this situation drove many of these workers, including a disproportionate number of women, to exit the workforce entirely.

While the development of COVID-19 vaccines and efforts to resume in-person schooling and child care have helped ease this problem, they have not resolved it completely. COVID-19 infections continue to cause shutdowns of classrooms and daycares, creating an unpredictable working environment for parents who might find themselves at home with their kids at any time. The spike in COVID-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant has helped exacerbate this problem.

Ursula Mead, CEO of the women’s workplace and employment resource InHerSight, recently wrote in Fast Company to advocate for paid time off for school and day care closures. Mead says her company regularly urges its employees to use their time off for this purpose.

  • Mead says that while paid leave options improved in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still a need to improve this benefit for child care interruptions
  • A survey by InHerSight found few working mothers saying their employer’s support on this issue has improved during disruptions caused by the Omicron variant
  • Failing to address disruptions caused by child care interruptions risks departures from the workforce
  • Mead calls on employers to emphasize with employees, expand paid time off, and come up with creative solutions, such as flexible work options or stipends for backup child care options
  • According to the Department of Labor, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees are exempt from providing paid sick leave or expanded family leave due to daycare or school closures from COVID-19 if doing so would jeopardize the business’s operations or financial viability

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