How much pregnancy and parenting leave do we have to offer employees?

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Question:

Our company operates in California, and I have a question about pregnancy and parenting leave. How much time do off do we have to give employees who are pregnant or have just had a child? I did some research, and it looks like there are about half a dozen laws that might apply. An employee just told me she is pregnant, and I need to know what to tell her about taking time off. 

Answer:

HR specialists across the Golden State feel your pain. California offers many employee protections, and it has legislated extensively in the area of pregnancy and parenting. Not only does the state require employers to allow leave, but it also allows employees to make a claim against the state's disability insurance fund for pregnancy disability and family leave. What's more, you may also have to follow the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows employees to take pregnancy and parental leave as well. 

California law requires employers to provide pregnancy disability leave to an employee who is temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth. The law requires employers to give up to four months off, but the employee's entitlement depends on the difficulty of her pregnancy and how quickly she recovers. 

In addition, California's Family Rights Act (CFRA) requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of leave (in a 12-month period) to bond with a new child, recover from a serious health condition, or care for a family member who is seriously ill. However, CFRA doesn't allow time off for disability relating to pregnancy and childbirth. This means CFRA and the state's pregnancy disability leave law are separate entitlements. An employee could take up to four months off while unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth, then still have 12 weeks of CFRA leave available for parenting. That adds up to a potential total of seven months off. 

If your company is also subject to the federal FMLA, you will have some additional paperwork burdens. However, you likely won't have to offer more leave. Unlike CFRA, the FMLA covers pregnancy and childbirth as well as parenting. And, the FMLA offers a total of 12 weeks of leave for these reasons. Therefore, by the time you have given your employee the pregnancy disability leave required by California law and begun her CFRA leave, she will have used up her FMLA leave. 

California's paid disability and family leave programs also apply, but they don't give employees any right to take leave. These programs provide partial wage replacement to employees who have a temporary disability (including pregnancy) that prevents them from working and to employees who need time off to bond with a new child. Employees are paid from a state insurance program, which is funded by paycheck withholding from all employees in California. Employees apply to the state fund for payments; your company doesn't have to administer or track anything. So, while these programs provide some financial assistance to employees who are home waiting to give birth or caring for new children, they don't create any additional entitlement to take time off. 

It can be confusing when multiple laws apply to the same situation, as you are no doubt learning. For help figuring out how to apply overlapping family leave laws, see State Family and Medical Leave Laws. For detailed information on family leave, pick up a copy of The Essential Guide to Family and Medical Leave

 

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