Thanks to Rosa Hernandez, a summer associate and soon-to-be 3rd-year student at UC Berkeley Law School for this post.
Be honest, you’re getting sick of quarantine with your kids right? It’s okay, we won’t tell anyone. Remember when being a parent was great and kids still had that new baby smell? That early childhood bonding was supposed to prepare us for times like these, right?
Back on January 1, 2018, California’s “New Parent Leave Act” began requiring employers to offer 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave if they have between 20 and 49 employees. This leave is meant to allow new parents to bond with a newborn child, adopted child, or foster child within a year of their birth or placement. The Act prohibits discrimination or retaliation against an employee for taking this leave.
However, to qualify for this leave employees must be working for a covered employer, in a work site where the employer employs at least 20 employees, have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave, and employees must be taking the leave for the purpose of bonding with the child.
For employers, figuring out what parental leave and disability leave an employee qualifies for can be difficult as regulations frequently change or overlap. Consulting legal counsel can help unravel it. Here are a few frequently asked questions about the New Parent Leave Act.
Frequently asked Questions:
Q: What does job protected leave mean?
A: In general, the employer must guarantee before the employee’s leave begins that the employee will be reinstated to the same or a comparable position when they return from leave.
Q: Do employers have to pay for leave provided under the New Parent Leave Act?
A: No, the 12 weeks under the New Parent Leave Act is unpaid leave. However, employers must continue the employee’s coverage in the employer’s health insurance plan during the leave.
Q: Do male employees qualify for this leave?
A: Yes, the language of this law is gender-neutral and leave under the New Parent Leave Act is available to a parent regardless of their gender.
Q: What if I employ both parents seeking leave?
A: Employers are not required to provide simultaneous leave to both parents seeking leave to bond with the new child. The employer may choose to, but is not required to grant simultaneous leave to both parents. The New Parent Leave Act does not require employers to grant leave that would total more than 12 weeks.
Q: What happens if the employee doesn’t come back?
A: If an employee does not return from leave after the total period of leave they qualify for, the employer may be able to recover the individual cost of the health plan premium the employer paid for the employee to retain their health coverage during the leave.
But the employer cannot recover these payments if the employee did not return due to the onset of a serious health condition, a continuation or recurrence of a serious health condition, or for circumstances beyond the employee’s control.
Q: Do employees have to choose between bonding leave or disability leave?
A: No. This leave does not prevent employees from taking other leave that they also qualify for. As an example, the New Parent Leave Act does not prevent a person disabled by pregnancy from taking up to four months of job-protected leave if the employee qualifies for that leave.
Q: How is this different from leave under California’s Family Rights Act or the Family Medical Leave Act?
A: CFRA and FMLA leave apply when the employer has 50 or more employees. The New Parent Leave Act extends those requirements to employers with 20 to 49 employees. Also, while the New Parent Leave Act only applies to births, adoptions, or foster placements, CFRA and FMLA also apply to leaves taken for other reasons (such as an employee’s or family member’s serious health condition).