Everything About Paternity & Maternity Leave in California

What is Paternity and Maternity Leave in California

Maternity and paternity leave in California ensures that new parents have the opportunity to take time off to be with their child. There are certain laws and regulations that shape paternity and maternity leave, also known as parental leave. There are also certain eligibility requirements that people who want to take leave must meet. Let’s take a deeper look into your legal rights, pay entitlement, and other benefits in the state of California.

Who Gets Paternity and Maternity Leave

California’s parental leave laws are some of the best in the country, extending beyond federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) applies to employees of companies with at least 20 employees who have a new biological, adopted, or foster child. Those employees must have worked for the employer for at least a year and at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to leave. For employees of a company with at least 50 employees, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) ensures leave, again, having met the same conditions. Then, there is paid disability and family leave, offering six weeks of partial wage replacement to parents who take time off to bond with a child. While some companies will try to dissuade fathers from enjoying paternity leave, this is a legal right. Women are offered pregnancy disability leave, which cannot apply to men. However, men can take up to 12 weeks to bond with a new child under the CFRA or New Parent Leave Act.

Legal Rights

What to Do if Your Boss Denies Leave

It is important to follow the rules regarding proper notice for taking leave. However, if your employer still does not comply, there are a few options for remedy. Contacting the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing with a complaint is a good start. You can also consult the California Employment Development Department and access their helpful resources. Some people may end up needing legal representation with an employment lawyer.

California New S.B. 63

Otherwise known as the New Parent Leave Act, California New S.B. 63 ensures job-protected parental leave. This is the leave that applies to employers with 20 to 49 employees within 75 miles of the worksite. Under California New S.B. 63, employees may take 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave any time in the 12 months following birth, adoption, or foster placement. California New S.B. 63 is separate from the California pregnancy disability leave law. If used for parental leave, this is in addition. The 12 weeks of leave under California New S.B. 63 can be taken all at once or intermittently. Employees must be returned to the same or comparable position.

Pregnancy Disability Leave 2019 (PDL)

PDL offers up to four months of leave to an employee disabled by pregnancy or childbirth, and eligible under the law. This law applies to most businesses with five or more employees. During this time, employers are required to maintain medical coverage and health benefits under existing group health plan. This leave can be taken all at once or intermittently.

Baby Bonding Leave

Paid family leave can be taken to bond with a new child entering the family, offering partial wage replacement benefit payments. It does not provide job protection, but employees can qualify for protection under other laws. Employees who take this type of leave can receive up to 70 percent of wages, for up to eight weeks. The payment amount is based on income and the wages earned before the claim start date.

Informing your Employer

When preparing to take maternity or paternity leave it is important to communicate clearly with your employer what your intentions are.  Although you are not expected to share all aspects of your personal life, sharing information on your expected outage dates in a respectable and timely manner can help the employer plan for your absence.

Am I Entitled to Pay?

Paid Family Leave Act in CA

California was the first state with paid family leave laws, starting in 2004. Nearly all employers are required to participate in this state program or offer a private plan. Any private business with more than one employee, paying $100+ in a quarter must pay and collect state taxes, including State Disability Insurance (SDI), which funds this leave.

To qualify, employees must have contributed to the California SDI program through payroll deductions during the previous 18 months. Self-employed workers must have contributed to the disability elective coverage program.

Benefits of Taking Family Leave

Paternity/Maternity Leave Stats

Welcoming a new child into the family is a major life changing event in an employee’s life, so it’s important to help ease the transition to leave by ensuring they have protections in place. Many studies and stats point to the tremendous benefits of family leave. For example, fathers who take two or more weeks of leave are much more involved in their child’s direct care nine months after birth. Mental health outcome for both parents and children are improved with paid parental leave. For women who do not want to leave the workforce, paid family leave can allow for that temporary break rather than having to quit. Finally, some studies show that paternity leave, in particular, is associated with a lower risk of marital dissolution.

How Long is Paternity and Maternity Leave?

12 Weeks: The California Family Rights Act

The California Family Rights Act stipulates eligible employees can take a total of 12 weeks of paid or unpaid job-protected leave during a 12-month period. 

California vs. Other States

FMLA vs. California New Parents Leave Act

FMLA allows mothers to use 12 weeks for childbirth, for prenatal care and incapacity related to pregnancy, or for a serious health condition following childbirth. A spouse can use FMLA for the birth of a child and to care for a spouse incapacitated due to childbirth or pregnancy. The New Parent Leave Act allows for 12 weeks of leave as well, covering maternity leave for mothers and paternity leave for fathers. If an employee is covered under FMLA and the California Family Rights Act they will not qualify for New Parent Leave Act.

Paternity Leave Varies

FMLA is the only federal legislation covering parental leave. Paternity leave laws vary across other states, usually consisting of vacation and sick leave.

Pay Varies

Much like the variations in leave laws, if or how leave is paid varies from state to state. California is often considered a trailblazer in this regard, with the first paid leave act.

Conclusion: Is Paternity and Maternity Leave Right for Me?

Where paternity or maternity leave is legally protected, families should feel comfortable taking advantage of this right. With legally protected leave, there is no concern about losing a job to take care of one’s family. As the statistics show, there are clear benefits to parental leave for those who can take it, from healthier families to better career outcomes. In places like California where there are additional protections and even the possibility of compensation, leave can be much more attractive.

For more information see this resource.

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