Question: How is paternity leave managed for California employers with over 50 employees?

Answer: Employees may be eligible for federal Family and Medical Leave Act and California Family Rights Act leave because the employer is a California employer with over 50 employees. In general, both laws require covered employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid job benefits-protected leave within a 12-month period to employees who meet the requirements for the leave. A father taking leave for the birth and care of a newborn child, or placement of an adopted or foster child with an employee would qualify for leave as long as that employee:

  • provided proper certification of the need for the leave;
  • had been employed by the employer for at least 12 months;
  • worked at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12-month period immediately preceding the start of the leave; and
  • is employed at a worksite where 50 or more employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles of the worksite.

The employer can set more generous eligibility rules but must follow the basic minimums. Even though employers are not required to pay the employee during this leave, the employer must continue to pay the employee’s health insurance premiums up to the current contribution amount as if the employee were still working. The employee must also contribute (pay) his/her current premiums to the employer during this time. This is required for the duration of the approved leave.

Paternity leave taken under the federal FMLA and California CFRA would run concurrently, giving the employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period.

In California, there are a couple of other provisions that an employer should know relating to time off for paternity leave. Under California Labor Code Section 233 (the “kin care” leave law), employers who provide sick leave for their employees must permit employees to use up to half of their accrued sick leave in any calendar year for the illness of a spouse, child, registered domestic partner or parent. It does not extend the 12 weeks of time off, just provides for some sick leave compensation during that time off. In addition, any California employee who pays into the California State Disability Insurance Fund (SDI) is covered by Paid Family Leave Insurance (PFL). PFL Provides a portion of the employee’s wages for up to 6 weeks for employees who need to take time off to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, registered domestic partner, or parent, or to bond with a new child. Time taken off for bonding with a new baby or child in the household for FMLA, CFRA, and PFL must be taken within the first year of the baby’s birth or placement in the household.