Maternity Leave and Paid Time Off for Pregnancy in California

Paid and unpaid time off is available for pregnancy and parenting in California.

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California's pregnancy and parental leave laws are among the very best in the nation. While employees in most states must rely on the federal FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) for pregnancy and parenting leave, California has also enacted several laws providing time off.

California New Parent Leave Act

A new law called the New Parent Leave Act, which took effect in 2019, allows some employees to take leave for up to 12 weeks to take care of a new child (biological, adopted, or foster). This law covers employers who have at least 20 employees in a 75-mile radius.

To be eligible for job-protected leave, employees must:

  • have worked for the employer for at least one year, and
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the leave.
While the employees are out on leave, their employers must continue their group health coverage, and when they get back, employers must return them to the same jobs they had before they left.

California Family Rights Act

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) covers employers who have at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius.

This law also applies to California workers who:

  • have worked for their employer for at least one year, and
  • have worked at least 1,250 hours during the last year.

During your leave, your employer must continue to provide you with any health care benefits you were receiving before your leave, however you will be required to pay your portion of the premiums. Keep in mind that your portion will now be after-tax, which means your premiums will cost you more up front than they did while you were working.

California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

California also has a Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) that will kick in if you are incapacitated during your pregnancy and will allow you to take up to four months off. Pregnancy-related concerns that qualify for PDLL include severe morning sickness, prenatal care, physician-ordered bed rest, childbirth and recovery from childbirth. This time off is not simply for pregnancy: You must be deemed incapable of doing at least one essential job task without risk to yourself (or your unborn child). The pregnancy disability leave requires that your position be held for up to four months (unpaid). This time off is in addition to the 12 weeks of parenting leave available under the CFRA, which means you could be eligible for up to seven months off, depending on how long you are physically unable to work.

California Paid Disability and Family Leave

California is also one of the few states that offers some paid leave benefits for employees who are temporarily unable to work due to disability or who want to take time off work to bond with a new child. California's short-term disability insurance (SDI) program pays a portion of the employee's usual wages while the employee is temporarily disabled, including by pregnancy and childbirth. The money is paid from a state fund, which is replenished by payroll withholding from employee paychecks.

Through the same program, California has a paid family leave (PFL) program, which provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement for parents who take time off to bond with a new child.

Employees who work for any size employer are eligible for SDI and paid family leave. However, employees who work for employers with less than 20 employees are not entitled to job-protected leave under the law. In other words, they may take time off and receive pay from the state, but their employers can fire them or refuse to hold their jobs for them.

Read more about California's short-term disability and paid leave programs.

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