baby bonding

Baby Bonding Leave Basics

Earlier this month, Governor Brown signed SB 63, requiring employers with 20 or more employees to provide baby bonding leave. The new baby bonding leave law becomes operative on January 1, 2018. Employers with 50 or more employees already provide baby bonding leave under the CFRA. The new law has important twists to note.

Baby Bonding Leave Applies to Employers with 20 or More Employees

Employers must allow eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of parental leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Like the California Family Rights Act, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12-month period and must work “at a worksite in which the employer employs at least 20 employees within 75 miles.” The 20 or more employees includes part-time and full-time employees (not just “full-time equivalents”).

Employers must affirmatively guarantee employment in the same or a comparable position upon the termination of the leave on or before the leave begins. Otherwise “the employer shall be deemed to have refused to allow the leave.”  Employers should provide a written notice guaranteeing the employee’s position.

Employees may use “accrued vacation pay, paid sick time, other accrued paid time off, or other paid or unpaid time off negotiated with the employer, during the period of parental leave.” Employees may also be eligible for state disability benefit payments through the EDD as part of the Paid Family Leave. In San Francisco, some employers may have to subsidize the disability benefit payments.

Medical Benefits Under New Baby Bonding Leave

Like CFRA, FMLA and PDL, employers must “maintain and pay for” health insurance benefits “at the level and under the conditions that coverage would have been provided if the employee had continued to work in his or her position for the duration of the leave.” If the employer normally pays all or a portion of the health benefits, the employer must continue that coverage during the baby bonding leave. The employer can recover the cost of the health benefits if the employee does not return to work after the leave. However, if the employee does not return because of a “continuation, recurrence, or onset of a serious health condition or other circumstances beyond the control of the employee,” then the employee is not responsible for repaying the health plan costs.

The new law does not apply to employees covered by the federal Family Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act. Given the similarities in the laws, cases interpreting FMLA and CFRA will be used in cases involving SB 63.

Employers with 20 to 49 employees should modify their handbooks to include information about the new paid parental leave law.

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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