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California Expands Employee Rights to Family and Medical Leave

UPDATED 12/17/20 11:55am PT:

The last couple of years have brought about several changes to employee rights in California. The most recent change (SB 1383) expands employee rights to family and medical leave. The law will not go into effect until the beginning of 2021, which gives healthcare providers just enough time to start adjusting their policies.

Expanded Family Medical Leave Will Affect More Small Businesses

Currently (2020), California follows rules established by the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). According to the law, employers with fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius do not need to provide family medical leave to their employees.

The law that takes effect on January 1st, 2021 will lower the number of employees from 50 to 5. Any small business with at least 5 employees must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. While employees do not receive pay during their time off, they will retain job protection that lets them return to work.










Companies must also cover their employees' health insurance during family medical leave. Employees will keep the same level of coverage that they enjoyed before taking leave. Considering that California's average health insurance policy costs more than $4,100 per year, the new rule will help provide continuous coverage without forcing people to pay for private policies.

Request a free consultation with HR for Health to learn more about how to track time off under this leave.

Recommended Reading: Best Practices for When Your Employees Request FFCRA

Employees Will Have More Opportunities to Take Family Medical Leave

SB 1383 will also give employees more opportunities to take family medical leave. Current law says that employees can take leave to care for a:

  • Child
  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Domestic partner

SB 1383 expands that list to also include:

  • Grandparents
  • Grandchildren
  • Siblings

Only certain situations qualify for family medical leave. Reasons that employees can take leave include:

  • Giving birth to a child.
  • Adopting or fostering a child.
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health condition.
  • Getting a serious physical or mental health condition that requires time to recover.
  • Recovering from dental or plastic surgery.
  • Receiving ongoing treatment for an incurable long-term or chronic health condition.

When employees need to take leave under CFRA, you may ask them to complete a leave of absence request, including the reason for the leave. The provided information should help determine whether the employee qualifies for family and medical leave.

Even experienced HR professionals can find the new family and medical leave rights confusing. Do you want to learn more about HR issues in the healthcare industry? Download a free whitepaper for accurate information. You can also download the FFCRA leave request forms here.

Recommended Reading: Clearing Up California's Sick Leave Laws: Rollover vs Lump Sum

Parents Will Enjoy More Time With Children

Under current laws, employers who employ both parents only need to give couples a combined 12 weeks of leave to care for and bond with children. If two spouses or domestic partners work for the same practice, then they most often need to divide the 12 weeks between each other.

SB 1383 ensures that both parents can take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to spend time with their children.

Giving both parents more time could have sweeping effects that contribute to the wellness of children throughout their lives. Some research shows that bonding time between parents and children improves:

  • Self-esteem in children.
  • Development of positive, healthy behaviors such as avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
  • Communication between parents and children.
  • The child's future academic performance.

The updated law also applies to more employers. Previously, the New Parent Leave Act only applied to practices with 20 or more team members. The updated law gives leave to new parents at offices with five or more employees.

Some Restrictions Still Apply to Family Medical Leave

Not every California employee will get to take advantage of extended family medical leave. To qualify, employees must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the last 12 months for their employer. Previous laws have included the same restrictions that help protect employers when new employees need to take leave right after starting their jobs.

Recommended Reading: What You Need to Know About California's AB5 Law (Updated for 2020)

Final Thoughts

New laws and ever-changing rules can create risk and confusion for many practices. You don’t have to make guesses that cause legal troubles for your office. Schedule a call with a professional from HR for Health to get the advice you need.


Did you know that we at HR for Health monitor all the specific laws and regulations that affect your practice? If you have questions about compliance issues, please reach out to us. Schedule a call, call (877) 779-4747, or email compliance@hrforhealth.com now to learn more.

HR for Health is one of the nation’s leading Human Resources Management Systems (HRMS) used by small to mid-sized practices.