Attention California employers … on October 12, 2017, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the New Parent Leave Act (SB 63) into law. Under this new law, starting January 1, 2018, certain California employers are required to provide eligible employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental bonding leave.
Which employers are covered under this law (and required to provide this new leave)?
California employers who employ 20 to 49 employees within 75 miles of each other are covered by this law and required to provide this new benefit.
Does this new law extend FMLA/CFRA baby-bonding leave time?
No, this law does not apply to employees who are covered under the FMLA/CFRA, as these laws already provide 12-weeks of baby bonding leave.
However, an FMLA/CFRA-employer that has smaller locations (e.g. locations where the employees are not FMLA/CFRA-eligible due to not meeting the 50 employees within 75 miles requirement) are required to provide baby bonding leave to those employees who work at a worksite with between 20 or more employees in a 75-mile radius.
What employees are eligible for California Parental Leave?
The eligibility requirements are extremely similar to those under the FMLA/CFRA. In other words, an employee is eligible for Parental Leave if he/she meets the following requirements:
- The employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months,
- The employee has worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12-month period preceding the use of leave, and
- The employee works at a worksite with 20 or more employees in a 75-mile radius.
How much leave is available to eligible employees?
Eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during a 12-month period to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.
Is this leave paid leave?
No, the leave itself is unpaid. However, employees are entitled to use accrued paid time off, such as paid vacation and sick leave, during the leave. In addition, employees may also use California Paid Family Leave benefits for 6 weeks of this leave.
Do employers have to maintain an employee’s health benefits under this leave?
Yes, in addition to providing the leave of absence, employers are required to maintain and pay for the employee’s continued coverage under a group health plan at the level and under the same conditions that coverage would have been provided had the employee continued to work. Yet, if the employee fails to return to work following the leave, the employer is able to recover their portion of the premium provided that the employee’s failure to return is not due to the continuation, recurrence or onset of a serious health condition, or “other circumstances beyond the control of the employee.”
What if both new parents work for the same employer? How does the leave work in that case?
In a case where both parents work for the same employer, both parents are entitled to a combined total of 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave. The employer may, but is not required to, grant simultaneous leave to both employees.
What steps should employers take to prepare for this new leave?
Before this new law takes effect on January 1, 2018, California employers should first determine if they are covered employers under this law. If yes, then affected employers should take steps to develop new policies and procedures relating to this leave of absence. In addition, employers should train their managers and supervisors on how to comply with these new requirements.