The school year is upon us and working parents will once again find themselves juggling job duties and school functions. The juggling may be a bit more difficult for some parents this year, as those that work for larger Colorado employers are no longer guaranteed time off to attend their kid’s school activities. As of September 1st, Colorado employers with 50 or more employees are no longer required by law to provide parents time off to attend academic activities for their school children. The Parental Involvement in K-12 Education Act (Academic Leave Act) automatically repealed on that date, relieving covered employers of providing that leave.
Colorado Senate Committee Shot Down Extension of Academic Leave Act
In effect since 2009, the Academic Leave Act required employers with 50 or more employees to provide its full-time employees up to 6 hours in any one-month period, and up to 18 hours per academic year, of unpaid leave from work to attend a child's academic activities. C.R.S. §8-13.3-101 et seq. Part-time workers were entitled to pro-rated leave based on the amount of hours worked. Covered academic activities included attending parent-teacher conferences, and meetings related to special education needs, truancy, dropout prevention and disciplinary concerns.
The 2009 law specified that it would repeal on September 1, 2015. This past legislative session, Representatives John Buckner and Rhonda Fields introduced a bill that sought to extend the Academic Leave Act indefinitely. House Bill 1221 also attempted to expand the law to:
- include pre-school activities, rather than just K-12;
- add more covered activities to include attending meetings with a school counselor and attending academic achievement ceremonies; and
- require school districts and charter schools to post on their websites and include in their district/school-wide communications information to parents and the community at large about the leave requirement.
The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate. The Senate committee to which it was assigned voted 3-2 to kill the bill. By doing so, the bill never got to a vote in the full Senate and died. The result is that the Academic Leave Act was not extended and the original repeal date of September 1, 2015 remains.
With the repeal of the Academic Leave Act and no federal law mandating this type of leave, Colorado employers with more than 50 employees no longer need to offer parents of school-age children leave to attend covered school functions. You may, of course, choose to voluntarily continue to offer parents time off to attend their child’s school functions. If you do, decide whether you will continue to offer it under the same terms as was mandated by law or if you wish to set your own parameters about eligibility, amount of leave, notice requirements, whether documentation of the activity is required, etc. Then, update your policies and let employees know about any changes.
If you choose not to offer parents time off to attend their child’s academic activities, update your policies and procedures to delete that type of leave. Revise your employee handbook and any intranet policies to reflect that academic leave is no longer available. Inform supervisors and managers so that they know how to handle any requests or questions. Importantly, communicate to employees that the academic leave provision was repealed and let them know about any other time off policies, if any, that may apply to allow them to attend school functions.