California Employers with Less Than 50 Employees Now Required to Provide Employees With 12 Weeks of Parental Leave

Effective January 1, 2018, California employers with 20 to 49 employees will be required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for employees to care for a newborn child, or the adoption or placement of a child in foster care. The new law amends the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which required employers to provide time off for such care, but if the employer had 50 or more employees.

In order to qualify for leave, the employee must also meet certain coverage requirements imposed by the new law, including: (1) at least 12 months of service with the employer; (2) at least 1250 hours of service for the employer during the previous 12-month period; and, (3) works at a worksite in which the employer employees at least 20 employees within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s worksite.

Once employer and employee coverage requirements are met, the employee is entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave to bond with the new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or placement in foster care with the employee. The leave is in addition to up to four months of pregnancy disability leave available to employees disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, for a total of approximately seven months of time off.

If the employer does not provide the employee a guarantee of return to employment in the same or comparable position upon termination of the leave, the employer shall be deemed to have refused to provide the leave. Accordingly, employers should prepare documentation for issuance to employees confirming the statutory right to reinstatement.

During the leave the employer must maintain health insurance at the level and under the conditions that would have been provided if the employee continued to work for the duration of the 12-week leave. If the employee fails to return from leave the employer, under certain conditions, may recover from the employee any health insurance premiums the employer was required to pay on behalf of the employee during the leave.

During the leave, the employee is also entitled to use accrued vacation pay, paid sick leave, other accrued paid time off, or other paid or unpaid time off negotiated with the employer.

The California Fair Employment and Housing Council is currently considering regulations to implement the new parental leave law, including the extension of existing CFRA notice and other regulatory requirements to the new parental leave law.