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California Expands Family and Medical Leave Law to Cover Small Employers

September 23, 2020 Articles

California Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed SB 1383, which expands employees’ leave entitlements under California’s Family Rights Act and New Parent Leave Act. Effective January 1, 2021, these leave provisions will apply to employers with as few as five employees. The law also expands the reasons for which eligible employees may take leave.

Through the end of 2020, only employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for an employee’s own serious health condition or that of a qualifying family member. Only employers with 20 or more employees are required to provide up to 12 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child.

Effective January 1, 2021, California employers with five or more employees will be required to provide these leaves. To qualify for these leaves, employees still must have worked for the employer for more than 12 months, and for more than 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period. As with prior law, employees are entitled to return from leave to the same or a comparable position and the employer must maintain coverage under a group health plan as if the employee had worked for the duration of the leave.

SB 1383 will also expand the reasons for which a qualified employee may take leave. Most notably, employees may now take leave to care for grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings, in addition to children, parents, spouses, and domestic partners. Additionally, employers must provide 12 workweeks of leave for a qualifying exigency related to certain family members’ call to active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and employers employing both new parents must now provide 12 workweeks of bonding leave to each parent instead of a combined 12 weeks for both parents.

Employers not previously covered by the California Family Rights Act and New Parent Leave Act should familiarize themselves with these laws and adopt policies incorporating their provisions. All covered employers should also update any policies or employee handbooks to account for these new provisions.

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