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Pop quiz: Companies that let their employees take time off to attend their children’s school field trips, parties, conferences and other activities are:
A. Wisely enacting family-friendly policies to attract and retain top talent
B. Being very generous
C. Setting unwise precedents
D. Complying with employment law
While arguments can be made for answering A, B or C, if a company has 25 or more employees working at the same California location, the correct answer is D. They are complying with California’s School Activities Leave law.
If this law applies to your business, here’s what you need to know:
• It covers a big range of school activities. If an eligible employee requests time off to attend any school-sponsored, school-supervised or school-approved activity, your answer needs to be yes. This includes parent/teacher conferences, assemblies, classroom parties, field trips, fundraisers, etc. In addition, finding, enrolling or re-enrolling a child in school or with a child care provider are also covered activities.
• It’s not just for parents. Others who stand in loco parentis (i.e. in the place of a parent) of a child who is in kindergarten through 12th grade, or who is in a licensed day care facility, are also eligible. This includes stepparents, grandparents, foster parents and guardians.
• You don’t have to grant leave to more than one parent of the same child. If two of your employees are parents of the same child (or if two are parents and one is a stepparent, etc.), you only have to grant leave to one of them to attend a particular activity.
• In general there’s a limit to how many hours of leave you must grant. The law stipulates up to eight hours per month of job-protected time off, up to a total of 40 hours per year, per eligible employee—regardless of how many children the employee has.
• The monthly maximum doesn’t apply to eligible emergencies. Job-protected school activities leave can also be used for “emergency” situations, such as unexpected school closures, behavioral or disciplinary problems, natural disasters, or requests that the child be picked up. Except in these non-planned situations, employees must provide reasonable notice of the absence.
• You don’t have to provide extra pay for these absences. Although you must allow employees to use any available paid time off to cover these absences, if none is available you can require employees to take the time off without pay.
• You can ask for proof. The law allows you to ask for documentation verifying that the employee actually participated in the activity as claimed.
Although staying current on labor law is a necessity that many small
businesses don’t have time for, remaining in compliance is vital. If
you’re struggling in this area, I can refer you to organizations that
provide annual labor law update via seminars or newsletters, as well as
outsourced HR providers that can help you put appropriate policies in
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