Family Life

Your Guide To Understanding Maternity Leave In California

Maternity leave is essential among women. It’s a time they get to spend solely for their newborn, at the same time, a time to recover after giving birth. In the United States, every state has its own take on maternity leave, but one of the most talked-about is the maternity leave in California – being tagged as one of the best in the nation.


For a new mom, being able to spend time with your newborn child, and the ability to take care of him or her is one of the most precious thing ever. Needless to say, a time to recuperate and recover from bearing your baby for nine months and the most excruciating day of all – the birth of your child – is really very important.


Wherever you go in the country (even in the world), every state offers maternity leave, which allows new moms to take some time off from work not just for the purpose of taking care of your child and recover from childbirth, but also for adoption and foster care purposes.


While all the states have it, the content of each’s maternity leave law is different. In fact, some are generous, while others are quite a challenge or need a little tweaking to make it more beneficial both for the mom and the child.


Currently, one of the most sought after rather the most ideal law there is when it comes to maternity leave is that of California. Maternity leave in California is, in fact, has been tagged as one of the best in the country. Women in California are given legal right to be absent from work not just after pregnancy but even while still pregnant without having to worry about losing their jobs. Needless to say, some women do have a right to be paid while on maternity leave.


With that said, we thought of taking a closer look at maternity leave in California – particularly women’s rights and other laws that particularly protect maternity leave for women employees in California.


What is maternity leave?


Before we discuss fully the maternity leave in California, we thought it is just right to first explain what “maternity leave” is all about.


According to the American Pregnancy Association, maternity leave refers to “the period of time that a new mother takes off from work following the birth of her baby”. It is usually created from different kinds of benefits, which include short-term disability, holiday time, personal days, sick leave, vacation, as well as unpaid family leave time.


To every pregnant woman, it is very important to plan your maternity leave to avoid any unexpected financial challenges. Also, so you get to spend quality time and make the most of your time with your little one.


How to request maternity leave in California?


Any employee who wishes to take maternity leave is required to provide their employer with reasonable notice of their need or intent for the leave. The notice must include at least the following information:


  • The date when the leave will be taken.
  • The duration or period of the leave.
  • Facts or documents that provide information about why the employee needs to take leave under the applicable law.


As a courtesy to the employer, the employee must provide the notice in the form or a request. Just so you know, no employer is allowed to deny maternity leave requests especially if the employee is legally entitled to take it. Moreover, if the employee has provided the required notice in a timely manner.


Although maternity leave requests can be made verbally, it is highly recommended to put it in writing. Make sure also that you keep a copy of the request for future reference. Ask your employer to sign your copy as proof that they have received your request for maternity leave.


Furthermore, it would also be good idea if the employee provides information that are relevant to the employee’s situation like expected due date, tasks that needs to be take while on leave, as well as contact information in case the employer has important question while the employee is on leave.


When should a mom-to-be file maternity leave?


Taking maternity leave is actually a case-to-case basis as some women go through difficult pregnancies, while the others experience the typical, normal pregnancy journey.


Ideally, a maternity leave notice must be given at least 30 days before the intended leave. This gives enough time for your employer to look for a possible temporary replacement who will take over your job while on leave. This will also give you time to prepare certain documents needed by your replacement.


Ideally, an expectant mom must start taking her to leave at least a week to a month before her expected delivery date. This allows her to deal properly with the discomfort of pregnancy that a woman experiences during the last few days before giving birth, at the same time, it gives her enough time to prepare for the coming of her child.


However, some women would rather wait until the last moment before they deliver so that they can maximize their time before the baby finally arrives.


Meanwhile, if in case the maternity leave is unexpected or sudden like in the case of an unforeseen medical complication, the notice must be given by the employee as soon as possible. Just the same, employers who are covered as stated by law do not have the right to deny such request.


How is maternity leave in California?


Maternity leave in California, as earlier mentioned, is considered as one of the best laws there is in the country.


There are actually different acts available depending on you or your employer’s situation. Currently, there is the California New Parent Leave Act, California Family Rights Act, and California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law. Furthermore, California is also one of the few states in the US that offer some paid leave benefits for employees who temporarily cannot work because or those who want to take a leave from work to be able to spend time with a new child.


Later on, we’ll talk about the different acts or laws in California to understand them fully.


How long is maternity leave in California?


The allowable length of time for maternity leave in California depends on the kind of leave that you are eligible for. For instance, under the California New Parent Leave Act, an employee is allowed to take a leave from work for up to 12 weeks.


Meanwhile, under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), an employee can take a leave off from work for up to  four months apart from the 12 weeks parenting leave benefit.


What is the California New Parent Leave Act?


Just so you know, maternity leave in California is actually under the new law called the California New Parent Leave Act (CNPLA), which only took effect this 2019. Basically, this law allows some employees to take a leave from work for up to 12 weeks to be able to spend time with and take care of your child whether he or she is your biological, adopted or foster child.


The California New Parent Leave Act basically covers employers who have at least 20 employees in a 75-mile radius.


An employee becomes eligible for a job-protective leave such as the California New Parent Leave Act if and only if she has:


  • Worked with the same employer for at least one year
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months before the intended leave


While on leave, the employers are required to continue the employee’s group health coverage. Also, once the employee gets back after taking the leave, she must return to the same position or job she’s into before she took a maternity leave.


What is the California Family Rights Act?


Meanwhile, the California state has another act, which is called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which basically covers employers who have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.


The same as the California New Parent Leave Act, an employee becomes eligible for the CFRA if she has:


  • Worked with the same employer for at least one year
  • Worked at least 1,250 hours in the last 12 months before the intended leave


The employers are also required to continue to provide any healthcare benefits that the employee is receiving prior to taking the leave. However, the employee will be required to pay a part of the premiums. Take note though that the employee’s portion will become after-tax, which basically means your premiums will cost you more upfront compared to while you were working.


What is California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law?


Just in case you are wondering maternity leave in California comes in different forms depending on the kind of situation an employee is into, which, if you think about it, is great because it only means the state wants to cover all possible situations concerning a soon-to-be parent, right?


Anyway, let’s move on to understanding what California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL) is all about. Essentially, PDLL kicks in if an employee is incapacitated during pregnancy. Under the California Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDLL), you are allowed to take up to four months off.


According to California law, to qualify for PDLL, you must meet the following requirements:


  • The employee must be disabled by her pregnancy, the childbirth, or a related medical condition; and
  • The employer must be covered by California’s pregnancy disability leave law, which applies to most businesses that have five or more employees.


If you meet both requirements, you are allowed to take a leave while you are being disabled by your pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical condition. You must take note, however, that the leave must not exceed four months per pregnancy.


Furthermore, California’s disability leave does not necessarily have to take all at the same time. In fact, it can be dispersed over the course of your pregnancy and childbirth, which makes it ideal especially for women who experience certain conditions that are either intermittent or temporary.


Perhaps you are wondering what “disability” means. Generally speaking, pregnancy itself is not considered a disability. However, if pregnancy-related complications happens, that may cause the employee or the woman legally-disabled. To put it simply, a woman is considered as disabled by her pregnancy if in the opinion of her healthcare provider, she is not able to perform any or most of her tasks because of her pregnancy.


Furthermore, by about the 36th week of pregnancy, some if not most women experience a different level of physical difficulty particularly in performing certain tasks that are related to their jobs. In fact, other women find it hard to sit at a desk for long periods of time, which is why it is very common among doctors to find their patients unable to work around this time.


In addition, if complications related to pregnancy arise, the employee might be disabled sooner than expected. Some of the conditions that are normally considered as disabling, which entitles the employee to start her pregnancy disability early are as follows:


  • Severe morning sickness
  • Prenatal or postnatal care
  • The need for bed rest
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Post-partum depression
  • Loss or end of pregnancy
  • Recovery from loss or end of pregnancy


These are just some cases or instances as employees may have different pregnancy or childbirth-related conditions that could be considered disabling.


Now, Now, according to the Work Lawyers PC website, maternity in California particularly the PDLL states that employers are required to follow the pregnancy disability law if they are under any of the following categories:


  • An employer is a person or business that regularly employs five or more people.
  • An employer is a person or business who acts as an agent of a covered employer.
  • The employer is a state or local governmental entity.


When an employee gets to apply for pregnancy disability leave, her position must be held for up to four months (unpaid). This time off is, in fact, in addition to the 12 weeks of parenting leave, which is under the CFRA. That said, it means an employee is entitled or eligible to be on leave from work for up to seven months – but that depends on how long you are physically not able to work, of course.


Other Information About Maternity Leave in California


Apart from what we already mentioned, California has also been named as one of the few states that offer some paid leave benefits for employees who are on maternity leave. California’s short-term disability insurance (SDI) program is the one responsible in paying a portion of the employee’s usual wages while on temporarily disabled, which include pregnancy and childbirth.


Basically, the money used to pay the employee is funded by the state, which is eventually replenished by payroll withholding from employee paychecks.


In the same programs, the state also has its Paid Family Leave (PFL) program. PFL program provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement for moms and dads who opted to take a leave to be able to bond with their new child.


Regardless of the size of your employer, employees are eligible for both the SDI and the paid family leave. Although those working for employers with less than 20 employees are, unfortunately, not covered to job-protected leave as per the law, which means, they can take time off at the same time receive pay from the state, but it is the employer’s prerogative to fire them or refuse to hold their jobs for them.


Furthermore, unfortunately, no matter how clear the requirements of the state is regarding maternity leave in California, some employers do still violate their employees legal right. If you happen to encounter a violation of your maternity leave right, you have three basic options:


First, you can try to resolve the matter informally with your employer.

Second, you can bring an administrative claim to seek damages.

Lastly, you can file a lawsuit against your employer in court.


Whatever path you choose among these three, you must be aware that you may be entitled to the following:


  • compensatory damages
  • punitive damages
  • in some cases, reinstatement to your former job


Just like any action, each has its set of pros and cons. But if you are ready to take any or all of these, then, there should be no problem along the way. Of course, as long as you know you are fighting for what’s legally right.


Final Thoughts


You see, maternity leave in California is no doubt one of the best, and every eligible employee must take advantage of these. After all, nothing beats being able to spend the first few days, weeks, or months of your baby’s life together. Needless to say, having gone through such a phase (the pregnancy), your body needs enough time to recover, at the same time, to adapt to the changes especially if you are a first-time mom.


Now, if your employer does not follow the law, you know what to do. As long as you are legally on the right side, the law will prevail in your favor. Remember, you are entitled and no one should take that entitlement from you. After all, you can never function well if your body has not recovered yet from the excruciating process of childbirth, right?