On October 12, the Governor of California signed into law the California New Parent Leave Act (“CA New Parent Leave Act”), which requires employers to provide 12 weeks of unpaid parental (bonding) leave for certain employees. The bill is effective on January 1, 2018.  The law includes the following provisions:

  • Employee Eligibility:  To be eligible, an employee must:
    • have more than 12 months of service with an employer;
    • have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the previous 12-month period; and
    • work at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles

***If an employee is subject to both the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), the employee is not eligible for the CA New Parent Leave Act.  CFRA and FMLA have the same eligibility requirements (hours worked and months of service) as the CA New Parent Leave Act, but require that the employee work at a worksite with 50 or more employees within 75 miles. The CA New Parent Leave Act fills a gap for employees at smaller worksites, by providing bonding leave for those employees working at worksites employing 20-49 employees.

Covered Employers: Employers with worksites with 20 or more employees within 75 miles.

Leave Reasons: An employee can take leave under the CA New Parent Leave Act to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Covered Relationships: An employee’s child – biological, adoptive, step, foster.

Amount of Leave: 12 weeks of leave in a 12-month period. An employer employing both parents can limit leave to 12 weeks total for both employees, which can be granted simultaneously if the employer chooses.

Job Protection: An employer must provide a guarantee of employment in the same or a comparable position upon return to work. An employer cannot discriminate against an employee for taking leave pursuant to the CA New Parent Leave Act.

Maintenance of Insurance Benefits: While using leave under the CA New Parent Leave Act, an employer must maintain and pay for coverage under a group health plan for the duration of the leave, not to exceed 12 weeks over the course of a 12-month period, beginning on the date that the parental leave commences, at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued to work in his or her position for the duration of the leave. An employer can recover the costs of maintaining the health plan for employees who do not return to work after their leave exhausts because of a reason other than a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the control of the employee.

Coordination with the FMLA and other state laws: The leave provided in the CA New Parent Act is in addition to leave provided by the California Pregnancy Disability Leave (“CA PDL”).  If an employee is eligible for FMLA and CFRA, the CA New Parent Leave Act will not apply, so the leaves would not run concurrently.

Interaction with PTO and Vacation Policies: The employee can use accrued vacation pay, paid sick time, other accrued paid time off, or other paid or unpaid time off negotiated with the employer, during the period of parental leave.

Mediation Pilot Program: The CA New Parent Leave Act also creates a mediation pilot program whereby an employer can request to mediate an alleged violation of this law prior to an employee filing a civil action.

What Employers Must Do Now

California employers with worksites of 20 or more workers with employees who are not covered by CFRA and FMLA are responsible for compliance with this law as of January 1, 2018. Employers should:

  • Review and, if necessary, update any parental leave policies and notice postings to include CA New Parent Leave Act;
  • Train appropriate personnel (Human Resources, Benefits, etc.) on how to manage the CA New Parent Leave Act; and
  • Train supervisors and managers on the new law so they can help spot covered absences and enlist HR assistance.
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