California to Require Unpaid Parental Leave at Small Businesses

Employers with between 20 and 49 employees must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected
parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster-care
placement, effective Jan. 1, 2018, under a measure (S.B. 63) signed Oct. 12 by California Gov. Jerry
Brown (D).

The New Parent Leave Act does not apply to employers covered under the federal Family and
Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, which apply to employers with at least 50
employees. The number of employees who work for one employer but at multiple locations within 75
miles of the employer’s location would be aggregated, so employers with fewer than 20 employees at
any location could be affected.

The parent leave law affects employees who worked for a given employer for more than 12 months and
who have at least 1,250 service hours with that employer within a year.

Employers and employees may negotiate to use accrued paid time off during the unpaid parental leave
period. In instances in which both parents work for the same employer, no requirement exists that more
than 12 weeks of parental leave be provided. Employers must guarantee covered employees before
they take leave that when they return they will have the same or comparable employment or the
employers will be considered to have refused the leave.

Employers also must maintain and pay continued group-health coverage for employees using the
parental leave, but may recover health-coverage costs from employees who fail to return to work,
except when the failure is from a serious health condition or a reason beyond the worker’s control.