navigating California Parental Leave

Navigating California Parental Leave

Pregnancy is an exciting time for parents, but there are many challenges that expecting parents face when getting ready to welcome a new child home. Additionally, having time off work to bond with your new baby after childbirth is also equally important, but can be tricky to navigate through when attempting to obtain parental leave approval from your employer. 

In many cases, mothers may need to take off time off work before or after having a child. However, many new fathers do not realize these laws also apply to them as well. Here is an extensive guide as to the different types of parental leave for new parents and how to request for leave, in the least stressful way, during this joyous time.


parental leave

Both state and federal law gives employees of businesses with 50 employees or more the right to take time off to care for their family members who may be in need. This includes taking care of an unwell family member or welcoming an adoptive, foster, or biological child into the home. There are many different types of paid and unpaid leaves, therefore, it is important to sit down with your partner and discuss which types of leave are beneficial for you and your new family.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

The Family and Medical Leave Act, or more commonly referred to as FMLA, is a federal law that will allow expecting parents (both fathers and mothers) to take up to 12 weeks (3 months) of unpaid leave off in a 12-month period, if they qualify. Under this act, new parents’ jobs are protected while they take time off to bond with their new child after his or her birth. To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for their employer for 12 months prior and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for that employer within that year. 

It is extremely important that an employee who would like to file for FMLA leave to notify their employer as soon as possible so that both parties have a shared understanding of the terms of the leave. The forms on the U.S. Department of Labor website will help you get set up with starting the process to file for FMLA. Generally, the employee must notify their employer at least 30 days before the start of the leave. However, sometimes leave dates are unforeseeable, which in this case the employee most notify their employer of their absence as soon as possible and practical. Failure to do so could potentially delay or deny their FMLA leave.

California Family Rights Act

The California Family Rights Act, also referred to as CFRA, is an unpaid leave similar to FMLA, however, this act limits leave to a child, parent or spouse. Unfortunately, CFRA does not list pregnancy as a qualifying condition. Therefore, this unpaid leave can only be taken after a child is born for use of bonding.
Additionally, as of September of 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law that employers with as few as 5 employees will are required to permit offer CFRA leave to their employees which will be effective on January 1, 2021 (this is in contrast to its federal FMLA counterpart).
A great benefit of this state law, unlike the FMLA, is that CFRA allows spouses to take their own time off individually (whereas the FMLA requires spouses to essentially “split” leave time). As a result, both parents can take turns caring for their new child under CFRA without worrying about losing their job and have one consistent income coming in during this time. 

Paid Family Leave

While federal and state law does protect new parents with unpaid leave to care for a child, many cannot afford to take the time off work. Luckily, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) offers up to 6 weeks of paid time off for mothers after child birth and up to 8 weeks for mothers who received a cesarean section to recover from childbirth. Under Paid Family Leave, fathers are also eligible for up to 8 weeks of paid leave to bond with their new child. In addition, this leave offers up to 60-70% of paid wages depending on the employee’s tax bracket. 
Paid Family Leave must be taken within the year after the new child came into the family, however, a parent does not have to use their leave all at once. Many parents may split up the weeks and adjust it to work best with their schedule. Unfortunately though, Paid Family Leave currently does not offer any job protection but may be taken concurrently with FMLA or CFRA to allow for that protection.

California Pregnancy Disability Leave

In California, any employer with 5 or more employees must provide pregnancy disability leave for their employees. Disability leave may be taken as soon as a mother is not able to work due to her pregnancy. A mother who is in need of disability insurance may file a claim online on the Employment Development Department (EDD) website.

Paid Time Off (PTO)

Most companies will allow their employees to take any sick, vacation or holiday pay during their maternity leave.  In fact, some employers will not allow employees to receive disability or unpaid time off until they use all of their PTO hours. If you are unsure of your employer’s policy, it may be beneficial to have a discussion with your HR team regarding paid time off before going on maternity leave.
requesting parental leave

As reiterated above, it is important to notify an employer no later than 30 days prior to when you plan on taking time off due to a pregnancy or care for a new child. Important details to include in a request are:

  • How long you will be out on leave for;
  • The dates leave will be taken;
  •  Sufficient facts to let the employer know whether the you are seeking disability or parental leave; and
  • Any information about the employee’s situation that could help.

If you feel like your employer is discriminating against you for being pregnant please take a look at our pregnancy discrimination page for more information.

Contact An Employment Discrimination Attorney Today

If you’ve followed the aforementioned steps and your employer denies or refuses to give you time off to bond with your child, or terminates your employment, we suggest calling an experienced pregnancy discrimination lawyerlike the ones at Odell Law, to assist you as you move forward. For more information about the different types of parental leaves in California, you can have a free consultation with us today by filling out our contact form found here.