California Senate Votes to Expand Parental Leave Law, Bill heads to Assembly

SB 63, the New Parent Leave Act, passed out of the state Senate on May 30 and now heads to the Assembly.

Currently, under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), a new parent who works for an employer with 50 or more employees has a right to up to 3 months of job protected parental leave. Under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave (“PDL”) law, new birth mothers who work for small employers with 5 or more employees are able to take 6-8 weeks of job protected leave to recover from the birth of a child.

If passed into law, SB 63 would allow California employees who work for a company with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, to take up to 12 weeks of job protected maternity and paternity leave to care for a new child.

If enacted, this measure would benefit up to 2.7 million more Californians, but only affect 6% of businesses. To be eligible for the leave, the law will require that the employee must have worked for the company for at least a year and for at least 1,250 hours. While an employee is on leave, the employer would have to maintain the employee’s health insurance.

The United States remains the only developed nation not to guarantee parental leave. California falls behind the District of Columbia, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and now New York in providing job-protected parental leave for small business employees. While California’s worker-funded Paid Family Leave (“PFL”) program provides employees with partial wage replacement while caring for a new child, millions of employees are unable to use this benefit for fear of losing their jobs. The passage of this legislation would be an important step toward closing that gap in the state of California.

A recent opinion poll, released from Small Business Majority and the Center for American Progress, shows that 71% of small business owners support expanding job protection for family and medical leave to businesses with 20 or more employees. Gaining support from groups traditionally opposed to such legislation, such as the small business community, is crucial for garnering needed momentum to pass this type of legislation. Union leaders stand to play an important role in this process as they are in a position to educate employers, particularly those with whom they have long-standing working relationships, about the benefits of this legislation, including retaining a committed workforce, boosting employee morale and increasing productivity. 

We will continue to keep you updated on the progress of this bill and similar legislative developments. Please contact your local labor counsel with any questions.

By Caroline Cohen | June 27, 2017

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