Back to school time is here!

June 12th, 2018 by hrsimple


Every August millions of students return to school from summer vacation. While it may not seem that relevant to the 9 to 5 workforce, the school year can impact employers in several ways, from internships to continuing education benefits. Here are a few things to look out for as school gets back in session.

Ending internships

The internship should be for a set amount of time, established prior to the start of the internship.  Further, unpaid internships should not be used by the employer as a trial period for individuals seeking employment at the conclusion of the internship.  If an intern is placed with the employer for a trial period with the expectation that he or she will then be hired on a permanent basis, the court will consider that individual to be an employee under the FLSA.

Student learners

Individuals who qualify as student learners are not prohibited from working in certain occupations which are otherwise restricted to them by virtue of their age. To qualify, the individual must meet the following criteria:

  • 16 to 18 years of age
  • enrolled in a youth vocation training program under a recognized state or local educational authority
  • employed under a written agreement which contains the name of the student learner, and is signed by the employer, school coordinator, principal and parent or legal guardian. The agreement must provide that: 
    • the work in the occupation declared particularly hazardous will be incidental to the training
    • the work will be intermittent and for short periods of time and under the direct and close supervision of a qualified and experienced person
    • that safety instruction will be given by the school and correlated by the employer with on-the-job training
    • a schedule of organized and progressive work processes to be performed on the job will be prepared.

Only certain occupations, otherwise prohibited for individuals under age 18, are permitted under this exception for student learners.

Continuing education benefits

Some employers provide educational assistance to employees for certain education expenses incurred by its employees on a tax-advantaged basis. 

Qualifying expenses include:

  • tuition
  • fees
  • supplies
  • books
  • equipment. 

Qualifying expenses generally do not include:

  • education related to hobbies
  • games
  • sports. 

Undergraduate and graduate degree courses may qualify.

Employers are not obligated to reimburse employees for continuing education programs.  Many employers choose to do so, however, because they believe such programs benefit the company by encouraging employees to become better educated in their respective fields of specialization and thereby improving company productivity.

If an employer elects to have a tuition reimbursement program, its terms should be in writing and contain the requirements for receiving reimbursement.  To provide the employee funds for educational purposes in advance, the employer may wish to utilize a loan document and wage assignment to authorize payroll deduction in the event the employee terminates employment prior to completing the course or otherwise fails to complete or pass the course.  It also should be noted that employees generally must be compensated for time spent attending mandatory on‑the‑job training programs or seminars.

SAMPLE POLICY

As a full‑time employee of ABC Company, you may qualify for tuition reimbursement.  The Company will reimburse you fully for tuition, fees, and books for courses taken that are directly related to improvement of relevant job skills with the Company.  This policy also covers all courses taken to fulfill the requirements of a degree program approved by your manager.  All reimbursements are subject to the approval of your supervisor or manager and the Human Resources Manager.

 

All tuition reimbursements must be requested in writing and approved prior to beginning the course.  Reimbursement may be subject to taxes.  To qualify for reimbursement, you must receive a passing grade and you must be an employee in good standing at the time of reimbursement.  Courses must be taken at times other than during scheduled working hours.  Proof of passing grade or certificate of satisfactory course completion and receipts for tuition, fees, and books must be turned in to the Human Resources Department in order to receive your reimbursement.

Parental leave

During the last decade, there has been an increased interest in promoting flexibility for employees with caregiver responsibilities, including parents of school-aged children.  Federal lawmakers have proposed amending the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to allow employees to take unpaid leave to participate in their children's school-related and educational activities.  These activities might include parent-teacher conferences, class parties, volunteer activities, assemblies, sporting events, and other extracurricular activities.  Currently, there is no obligation under either federal law to offer employees parental leave. If the employer elects to offer paid or unpaid parental leave, a policy should be spelled out in clear and detailed terms so that employees understand the nature and limitations of the benefit.

Some employers choose not to offer parental leave because it is a benefit that is not available to all employees and because parental leave can be difficult to define and limit.  Alternatively, if an employer does not want to offer separate parental leave, the employer’s policies concerning personal days or paid time off (PTO) (discussed above) could provide that such leave can be used at the employee’s discretion for activities such as parent-teacher conferences or other school events.

SAMPLE POLICY

ABC Company recognizes that many of its employees must balance work requirements with parental responsibilities.  For this reason, the Company provides unpaid parental leave to full‑time employees who are the parent, guardian, or foster parent of a child (or children) who is attending school or licensed daycare and is under age 18.  Parental leave may be used only for the employee’s attendance of conferences or classroom activities that cannot be scheduled during the employee’s non-work hours.

Eligible employees may take up to 10 hours of unpaid parental leave per child during any calendar year.  An employee may substitute accrued paid vacation leave or other appropriate paid leave for unpaid parental leave.  Parental leave must be requested at least one week in advance and approved by Human Resources and the employee’s supervisor.  Employees using unpaid parental leave may be required to provide written documentation of their attendance of a conference or classroom activity.

 

 



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