New parents who work for small employers in California can ring in the New Year by spending more time with their babies.  The New Parent Leave Act became effective on January 1, 2018.  It expands the leave rights of new parents by allowing employees who work for employers with at least 20 employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave to bond with their new baby and keep their jobs.

Though the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provide job protection to employees of larger employers (with at least 50 employees) who take up to 12 weeks of bonding leave, the New Parent Leave Act means more parents will be able to take time off to bond with their new baby without the fear of being demoted or fired.

It is important to note that both moms and dads are eligible to take bonding leave under the New Parent Leave Act.  And, if you had a baby in 2017, before the law took effect, you may still be eligible to take parental leave in 2018 as long as it’s taken within one year of the birth, adoption, or foster-care placement of the child.

To be eligible for the parental leave, an employee must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours within the prior 12 months.  The employer must have 20 employees working within a 75-mile radius of the employee’s jobsite.  Like the FMLA and CFRA, parental leave under the new act can be taken any time within the first year of a child’s birth, adoption, or foster-care placement.  Employers cannot take any adverse action against any employee who takes leave under the New Parent Leave Act.

Though leave under the Act is unpaid, parents may be eligible for partial wage reimbursement for up to six weeks by obtaining California Paid Family Leave.  In addition, during the bonding leave, employers will need to maintain the employee’s health insurance at the same level they would maintain it if the employee did not take leave.

Employees already eligible for leave under the CFRA or FMLA do not get additional leave under this law.  However, women who are disabled because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition may take pregnancy disability leave first and then take an additional 12 weeks of leave to bond with their new baby after their pregnancy disability leave ends.

So, if you’re expanding your current family with a new baby, be sure to spend some time with them in the New Year.  If you take leave under the New Parent Leave Act, your job will still be there after your time off.

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