Back-Up Care Not Available for Most COVID Closures
With the SEC’s implementation of Chair Gensler’s new policy eliminating the existing COVID Admin Leave program for SEC employees with dependents, the union has received numerous inquiries from employees about the option for Bright Horizons “back-up care” to fill gaps in care for children and elders. The union received a briefing from the SEC’s Office of Human Resources on this issue yesterday. We now have the following updates for your planning purposes:
• First, you should be aware that Bright Horizons does not accept enrollees for back-up care if they have COVID, have been exposed to COVID, have symptoms of respiratory illness, or are under quarantine for COVID. Thus Bright Horizons is not a back-up option if your dependent is sent home to your care for one of these reasons. As you may recall, in its August 18th notice on this topic, the SEC referred to the availability of Bright Horizons backup care as an alternative to COVID admin leave when discussing the possibility of a child being quarantined or a facility being closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Clearly, despite this assertion, back-up care will not be available from Bright Horizons in most cases involving a COVID outbreak, closure or quarantine situation at your dependent’s regular care facility or school (the primary issue currently facing many SEC employees).
• In addition, Bright Horizons does not require its employees to be vaccinated, nor does it require its employees to disclose to it whether or not they have been vaccinated. For this reason, if you are planning to use back-up care at the Harbor at Station Place in HQ, or at another Bright Horizons facility in one of our regional cities, you should know that the caregivers there may not be vaccinated. OHR reports that, with respect to the Harbor at Station Place, the SEC has required Bright Horizons personnel to be fully vaccinated by October 1, 2021, and will update the union regarding compliance. However, it is our understanding that this will not be a requirement at other Bright Horizons facilities.
• If you are planning to use in-home back-up care from Bright Horizons, again you should be aware that the caregiver that will be assigned to you is not required to be vaccinated nor to disclose to Bright Horizons their vaccination status. Bright Horizons has not created a system whereby you can request a vaccinated caregiver when making a booking. When you first speak to the caregiver (typically the day or evening before the care is scheduled), you can ask them whether or not they are vaccinated. If they are not, you can cancel. Bright Horizons will attempt to schedule another caregiver for you, but there is no guarantee that one will be available, nor that the replacement offered to you will be vaccinated.
The union is continuing to pursue remedies with respect to Chair Gensler’s unilateral decision to terminate the existing COVID admin leave program for SEC employees. We believe that this policy change was ill-conceived given the situation that hundreds of SEC employees with dependents currently face across the nation with the Delta surge. To date, Chair Gensler has indicated that he will not reconsider his decision, despite the facts and data on the ground. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee when this issue will be finally resolved.