Fact check: Expanded federal paid leave benefits may be available to parents for e-learning

Katie Landeck

The claim: Some employees tasked with caring for children whose schools or child care facilities have closed are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave.

When Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, it threw a potential lifeline to parents who rely on now-closed school or child care facilities to get their work done. 

A viral post of a photograph of a Labor Department flyer explaining employees’ rights under the act encourages “parents who have children in schools that are going the eLearning route — Look at #5.”

The fifth point on the flyer says, “an employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because the employee … is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons.”

The post, which has been widely shared and posted by others, goes on to say that if that’s the case, “you are entitled to 12 weeks leave for 2/3 pay under the CARES act. Check with your employer to see if this applies to you.”

Ty Jackson (left), 18, studies with his sister Ellie, 15, at their home during the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, April 16, 2020 in Jacksonville, Florida. They have been participating in online learning since their schools have been closed due to the virus.

Is 12 weeks of family leave really on the table?

Yes, the information is real: if your child’s school building is closed, it is possible that you qualify for 12 weeks of extended family leave at two-thirds of your pay. However, there’s a little more to it. 

The extended family leave comes with a number of exemptions and rules. Small businesses — any employer with fewer than 50 employees — do not have to offer their employees additional leave. On the other hand, private sector companies with more than 500 employees also don’t have to offer leave. 

More:Round 2 of online school: How to get your remote learning act together for fall

Health care workers and emergency responders can also be exempted.

For employees to qualify, they need to have worked with the employer for at least 30 days. They also need to be prepared to give their employer “the name of the child being cared for, the name of the school, place of care or child care provider that is closer or unavailable and a statement from the employee that no other suitable person is available to care for the child,” according to the Department of Labor. 

The act is in effect until Dec. 31. 

Does online learning count as closed? 

Yes, e-learning counts. 

In a Frequently Asked Question page about the act, the Department of Labor said, “if the physical location where your child received instruction or care is now closed, the school or place of care is ‘closed’ for purposes of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave. This is true even if some or all instruction is being provided online or whether, through another format such as ‘distance learning,’ your child is still expected or required to complete assignments.”

A new frequently asked questions page is expected to be released ahead of the fall semester.

More:Fact check: What's true and what's false about coronavirus?

Our rating: True

The claim about extended family leave is TRUE, based on our research. Paid leave (at a reduced rate) is potentially available to parents navigating school closures. That being said, they should check with their employers, as not everyone will be eligible due to exemptions.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.