March 17, 2020
On March 13, 2020, Governor Kay Ivey announced a statewide state of emergency and ordered all public schools (K-12) closed from March 18, 2020 to April 6, 2020 in an effort to curtail the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus. Private schools and day care centers have taken similar measures, creating difficulties for parents attempting to arrange for child care services without missing work. Some businesses may be interested in offering free child care services to their employees to assist with these issues, and they have some flexibility under Alabama law to accomplish that goal.
Businesses can offer free child care services without a license from the Alabama Department of Human Resources (“ADHR”), provided that: (i) the parent/custodian of the child is on-site or in the immediate vicinity and readily available during the time child care services are offered; and (ii) the facility where child care services are rendered meets state fire and health requirements. Alabama law generally prohibits any person, group of persons, or corporation from operating a child-care facility without a license. A child-care facility is defined as a facility established and maintained for the care of children and includes certain types of child-care facilities specifically defined by statute, such as day care centers. A day care center is a child-care facility receiving more than 12 children for daytime care during all or part of the day. However, it does not include facilities operated for more than four hours per day in connection with a shopping center or service or other similar facility where children are cared for temporarily while a parent or custodian is “occupied on the premises or [is] in the immediate vicinity and readily available.” Such facilities must meet local and state fire and health requirements as part of the exemption, but they are otherwise not subject to licensure by ADHR.
Although not technically subject to licensure by ADHR as outlined above, businesses that operate a child care program should carefully consider several operational issues before deciding whether and how to implement a free child care program for their employees. These concerns include employee screening and staffing requirements, participant health screenings, policies and procedures for providing child care services, and liability protections, among other items. If you have questions about implementing a child care program, feel free to contact us. We are making every effort to help our clients adjust to a challenging and rapidly changing business climate created by the coronavirus pandemic.