New Parent Leave Act Provides up to 12 Weeks of Leave for Many California Employees

By SHLC on October 14, 2017 in Legal Update

On October 12, 2017, Governor Brown signed SB 63 into law, the New Parent Leave Act (“NPLA”).  NPLA requires small businesses that employ 20 to 49 workers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave to bond with a new child. Sound familiar? It should. NPLA affords similar benefits and protections as the Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) and California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) to employees of small California businesses. This law takes effect on January 1, 2018. A link to the text of SB 63 can be found here.

NPLA Employee Eligibility Requirements:  Similar to FMLA and CFRA, an NPLA eligible employee must work for the employer for at least 12 months and work at least 1,250 hours during the 12-months prior to taking the leave of absence.  An employee must work at a jobsite that employs at least 20 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Bonding Leave:  NPLA leave may be used to:

  • Bond with a new baby within one year of child’s birth;
  • Bond with a new child placed with the employee through adoption or foster care placement.

In contrast, employees of large businesses may also take time-off under FMLA and CFRA due to a serious health condition of the employee or the employee’s family member. NPLA does not grant leave for purposes other than baby bonding.

Job-Protection.  Covered employers must allow employees to return to the same position or a comparable position once the leave ends. Failure to return employees to work in either the same or comparable position may be a violation of NPLA.

This job-protected leave may prove difficult for small business owners to manage because every worker may be necessary to the successful operations of the business. It could be difficult to shift responsibilities in order to hold a position open or find short-term replacements that will be displaced when the employee returns. Nonetheless, NPLA requires small businesses to reinstate employees upon conclusion of their parental leave and also applies an anti-retaliation provision to ensure compliance.

Similarities with CFRA Leave. NPLA operates as a stop-gap benefit to address the lack of state-mandated parental leave for certain small employers. Other than the size requirement (20-49 employees) and scope of leave (limited to baby bonding), NPLA appears to be extremely similar to CFRA. Indeed, NPLA states that CFRA regulations should be incorporated into the NPLA scheme. Employers should be mindful of the other similarities in the two leave statutes:

  • Requirement to maintain group health benefits.
  • Coordinating NPLA leave with other applicable leave laws.
  • Anti-retaliation provisions.
  • Use of paid time-off and other wage replacement (i.e., Paid Family Leave benefits).

Recommendations for Employers

  • Become familiar with the provisions of NPLA and understand how it might affect your business.
  • Include a carve-out from attendance and discipline policies for NPLA, just like other protected leaves of absence.
  • California employers should review their leave policies and revise to include NPLA leave in their employee handbooks.
  • Train those in supervisory positions and those that help with human resources functions to identify whether an employee may be eligible for NPLA leave.

NPLA and other recent changes – including a handful of new California employment laws – will be discussed during SHLC’s New Year Employment Law Update for California Employers Webinar on December 7, 2017. For more information on the event, click here.