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‘Back to school’ may mean employees need time off

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

The start of a new school year brings all sorts of anxiety. New teachers and new friends. All-consuming class projects. That call from the principal’s office urgently demanding a meeting about little Jimmy’s playground behavior.

When school is in, employees often need some short-term time off.

Please raise your hand before you talk. Every parent wants to be involved in their kid’s education. Unfortunately that’s usually easier said than done when parents work. Most employers are flexible, but just how far they’ll bend depends on whether employees are nonexempt or exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state short-term leave laws.

Nonexempts: For nonexempts, the FLSA rule is that they need only be paid for the time they’re actually working. So an employee who takes time off to see the class play, and who doesn’t have any vacation or personal time left, can do so on an unpaid basis.

On the other hand, you can build goodwill by not debiting nonexempts’ leave banks if they’ll need just a short amount of time off to, say, drop off their kids at school when car pool arrangements fall through. They can make up the time not worked during the day or the same week.

All or none: Exercise this flexibility consistently; you don’t want to be perceived as playing favorites.

Exempts: The FLSA allows exempts’ pay to be docked for full-day personal absences. As with nonexempts, you could debit exempts’ leave banks for the entire time they’re out (including making partial-day deductions), or they can work through lunch or arrive early or leave late to make up the time not worked. Since exempts aren’t eligible for overtime, they don’t necessarily have to make up the time during the same week.

Caution: Exempts whose leave banks would result in a negative balance due to current debiting or those who already have negative time in their banks must still receive their full pay.

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