HR Operations

Family care emergency absences

Updated March 12, 2020 to reflect COVID-19 related changes

Family care emergencies occur when regularly scheduled care plans are interrupted due to a school, camp, facility closure and/or the unexpected absence of a care provider. The family care emergency provisions apply to nontemporary contract covered, classified non-union, and professional staff.

There are two types of family care emergencies for which eligible staff are able to take time off:

  • A child care emergency occurs when you are unable to report for or continue scheduled work because of emergency child care requirements such as unexpected absence of regular care provider, unexpected closure of the child’s school, or unexpected need to pick up child at school earlier than normal.
  • An elder care emergency occurs when you are unable to report for or continue scheduled work because of emergency elder care requirements such as the unexpected absence of a regular care provider or unexpected closure of an assisted living facility.

For the purpose of this policy, a “family member” includes a spouse, registered domestic partner, or other household member; your minor/dependent child or a minor/dependent child of your spouse/registered domestic partner, your parents, or grandparents.

Time off types required

Unless a collective bargaining agreement or the Professional Staff Program states otherwise, an employee who is unable to report for or remain at work due to a family care emergency must be allowed to apply up to three (3) work days per calendar year of each of the following time off types available to the employee, to account for time away from work:

  • Vacation time off
  • Sick time off (see below)
  • Unpaid time off
  • Personal holiday (one day only)

Sick time off in excess of three days may be used when a child’s school or place of care has been closed by order of a public official for any health-related reason. The King, Snohomish and Pierce County K-12 public and private school closures announced by Governor Inslee on March 12, 2020 due to COVID-19 meet these criteria.


No advance approval is required for an employee to take time off for a family care emergency; but you must notify your supervisor at the beginning of the absence. Upon returning to work, the employee shall designate to which time off category the absence will be charged.

Supervisors: Your department may require verification of the need to take time off and that the situation was such that advance notice was not possible. Verification and use of sick time off for family care emergencies as outlined on the sick leave webpage must be consistent with verification rules. Please contact your human resources consultant if you have questions about family care emergencies.

Additional resources