November 2, 2017

Parental Leave Comes to Small Employers in California (article)

On October 12, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed a law that provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave to individuals who work for a covered small employer. This law (SB 63/Chapter 686) takes effect on January 1, 2018.


For purposes of this law, a small employer is one who employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles of an eligible employee’s worksite.  The law also applies to the state and local government jurisdictions. 


To be eligible for the leave, the individual must have worked at least 1,250 hours for the employer during the previous 12-month period prior to the need for leave.


Eligible individuals are entitled to up to 12 weeks of job protected, unpaid leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.  The employee can use vacation pay, paid sick time, other accrued paid time off, or other paid or unpaid time off, during the period of parental leave.  In the event both parents are entitled to leave and employed by the same employer, the employer would not be required to provide more than 12 weeks of leave to the employees, and may grant simultaneous leave to both of these employees.


Continuation of health coverage.  If the individual is covered under the employer’s group health plan at the time of taking leave, the employer is obligated to continue the individual’s coverage during the leave period, as well as continue to pay any employer contribution toward that coverage for up to 12 weeks, provided the leave does not exceed 12 weeks in a 12-month period.  An employer may recover the premium it paid for the employee if the employee fails to return from leave for a reason other than the continuation, recurrence, or onset of a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the control of the employee.


Job restoration.  Upon return from the leave period, the employee is entitled to return to the same or comparable position the individual held at the time the leave commenced.


Coordination with other leave laws.  If an individual is eligible for California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), which provides up to four months of leave based on disability related to the pregnancy, and if the individual is entitled to leave under this new parental leave law, it is possible that the individual could receive up to 7 months of leave.  In addition, the individual would be entitled to wage-replacement benefits under the state’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) program.  It is also important to note that the state leave law(s) must be coordinated with any local paid or unpaid sick and family leave laws in the cities of Berkeley, Emeryville, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Monica.


Below is a quick snapshot chart of California state leave law requirements, as provided by the California Senate Rules Committee.  Also see the Chart of PDL, CFRA, and FMLA Requirements and Obligations from the California Department of Fair Housing and Employment.  Information relating to the California Paid Family Leave Program is available from the California Employment Development Department’s website.


Snapshot of California Leave Laws


California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)


Paid Family Leave



Pregnancy Disability Leave


New Parent Leave Act

(SB 63/Chapter 686)

Covered Employers

50 or more employees in 75-mile radius of worksite

One or more (employee pays, employee gets)

Five or more employees

20 or more employees in 75-mile radius of worksite

Employee Eligibility

Worked 1,250 hours in prior 12 months

Once employee earns $300 in base period for fund contribution

Immediate as necessary

Worked 1,250 hours in prior 12 months


Reason for Leave

Employee’s own serious health condition; seriously ill family member care; bond with newborn or newly placed adopted or foster child

Care for seriously ill family member, bond with child within 1 year of birth, foster care or adoption placement

Disability due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition

Bond with a child within 1 year of birth, adoption or foster care placement

Length of Leave

12 weeks in 12-month period

6 weeks in 12-month period

Up to 4 months

Up to 12 weeks in 12-month period


Paid or Unpaid

Unpaid, may run concurrent with other paid leave

Partial wage replacement

Unpaid, may run concurrent with short-term disability insurance (SDI) for partial wage replacement

Unpaid, employee can use accrued vacation, paid sick time

Continued Health Coverage





Job Protected







The information contained in this article is provided as general guidance and may be affected by changes in law or regulation. This article is not intended to replace or substitute for accounting or other professional advice. Please consult a CBIZ professional. This information is provided as-is with no warranties of any kind. CBIZ shall not be liable for any damages whatsoever in connection with its use and assumes no obligation to inform the reader of any changes in laws or other factors that could affect the information contained herein.  

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