In addition to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), California has state laws protecting both pregnancy and parenting leave. In early 2018, California enacted the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) that widened the scope of the California Family Rights Act(CFRA). The new law expands on the federal guidelines to provide unpaid leave benefits to eligible employees that work for smaller companies (twenty or more employees).
Under California law, employers are required to provide continued group healthcare coverage to eligible employees who take a family or medical leave. The employer is also required to offer the same job to the employee (that they had prior to their family or medical leave) upon their return. California Paid Family Leave (PFL) is also available for eligible employees; the program provides partial wage replacement benefits so the parent can bond with the child within the first year of the child joining a family (through birth, foster care placement, or adoption).
How long is parental bonding leave?
Many companies will include paid time off (PTO) for parental bonding as part of an employee’s benefits package—separate from federal or state mandates. Under California law, employers with five employees or more must allow an employee leave for as long as they are disabled by pregnancy (up to four months of unpaid leave per pregnancy). Furthermore, employers with at least fifty employees or more must provide an additional twelve weeks of parental bonding leave to employees covered under the CFRA. Since these are separate entitlements, some employees in California may be eligible for a total of seven months of unpaid leave for pregnancy or childbirth. There are numerous regulations that apply to pregnancy leaves and parental bonding leaves that are mandated in federal and state law.
The FMLA affords certain employees with job protection for a period of up to twelve weeks per year of unpaid leave. The purpose of FMLA is to help employees manage family responsibilities during times in which work leave is necessary. According to the U.S Department of Labor, FMLA is required for all eligible employees in public agencies, private and public schools, as well as companies with fifty or more employees. An employer must provide up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:
- To provide care for a serious health condition of an immediate family member (i.e., child, spouse, or parent)
- For the birth and/or care of an employee’s newborn child
- For adoption or foster care placement of a child with an employee
- To take medical leave when an employee has developed a serious health condition resulting in the inability to work
An employee must have worked for his or her employer for a minimum of twelve months, or at least 1,250 hours over the past twelve months. Additionally, the employee must work at a location where the company employs fifty or more employees within a 75-mile radius. Although FMLA is unpaid, qualified employees can use any accrued and unused paid leave (i.e. sick time, vacation days, etc.) during FMLA.
California Paid Family Leave
The California Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) guarantees compensation to offset lost wages due to taking a leave from work for qualified reasons. PFL does not provide job protection to employees; however, employees may use this benefit to obtain income while taking leaves protected under the FMLA or CFRA. Many employees are required to pay State Disability Insurance (SDI) in the form of deductions from their paychecks. One of the stipulations for being eligible for PFL is that the employee pays their SDI taxes (this is the entire source for funding California PFL). Typically, California PFL pays approved employees between 60% and 70% of their weekly salary, with a maximum of $1,300.00 per week. PFL can be taken by an employee intermittently, provided it’s within the first twelve months of a child entering a family, or they can collect it all at once. Employers are also free to provide supplemental pay to employees on PFL to enable an employee to receive up to full pay during the time they are out.
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