Having a baby is an extremely exciting and scary time in anyone’s life. One of the many complex logistical components is ensuring you can take enough time off work to have the baby and recover fully. As you ponder maternity leave duration in California, you might also consider launching a business to offer flexible work-life balance. Read more on how to start an llc in california and possibly begin a new entrepreneurial journey in tandem with parenthood.

California is actually a pioneer when it comes to state maternity laws. In 2002, California became the first state to establish a paid family leave law, in which they granted employees 55 percent of their salary for up to six weeks (that number is now 60-70 percent). It was the only state to receive an “A” grade in a 2016 report from the National Partnership for Women.

California offers a few different types of leave: California Family Rights Act (CFRA), California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), and Paid Family Leave (PFL). There’s also a brand new type of leave that becomes available in 2024. Keep reading to learn more about each type of parental leave, who is eligible, and how long the benefits last.

California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) is a labor law that specifically helps pregnant employees. PDL is concurrent with the federal FMLA law, so if an employee uses 12 weeks of PDL leave, they have exhausted the 12 weeks provided through FMLA. A pregnant employee can use PDL and then use CFRA after for bonding time.

Pay and Benefits: This law guarantees unpaid, job-protected leave.

Eligibility: Employees must be unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

Duration: Employees may take up to four months of unpaid leave for any time they are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA) Leave

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of leave from work over a 12-month period. If both parents work for the same employer, each parent is entitled to take 12 weeks of leave. This differs from the FMLA, where parents have to share 12 weeks of parental leave.

CFRA leave can be used for a variety of family-related reasons, including maternity leave. Other qualifying reasons include an employee dealing with their own serious health condition or that of their family member. It can also be used for foster care placement of a child or adoption.

Pay and Benefits: This law only guarantees unpaid time off, but employers can choose to continue paying the employee. Employees on CFRA leave may keep their employee benefits during this time. (2 CCR § 11090).

Eligibility: Employees must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to starting leave. The company must employ at least five employees.

Duration: Employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child. This can be used to bond with the newborn or recover from a serious health condition following the birth. The “baby-bonding” leave applies to all genders and includes adoptive and foster parents (Cal. Gov. Code § 12945.2).

Paid Family Leave (PFL)

California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides partial wage replacement but not job protection. PFL is for employees who need time off to bond with a new child or take care of a seriously ill family member.

Pay and Benefits: Eligible employees can receive 60-70 percent of their pay for up to eight weeks.

Eligibility: Employees must have paid into the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program for at least one quarter in the past 12 months.

Duration: Employees may take up to six weeks of paid leave within 52 weeks of the birth or adoption of a child. PFL can be taken all at once or intermittently.


Reproductive Loss Leave

A new California law, Senate Bill 848 (“S.B. 848”), which takes effect on January 1, 2024, will require businesses to grant eligible employees up to five days of leave following a qualifying reproductive loss event. This includes stillbirths and miscarriages, as well as failed surrogacies and failed adoptions. The bill does not specifically include abortion in the list of qualifying events. This new law also protects employees from retaliation if they take time off for a reproductive loss.

The law provides that if an employee experiences more than one reproductive loss event within a 12-month period, the employer is not obligated to grant a total amount of reproductive loss leave time in excess of 20 days within a 12-month period.

How to Take Maternity Leave in California

Most women feel comfortable announcing their pregnancy after the first trimester. As soon as you feel comfortable, you should notify your employer about your intent to take maternity leave as soon as possible. Your employer may require medical documentation to support your request for time off.

Some types of maternity leave can be spread out over time, so make sure to stay in close communication with your employer about the time off you need. Under the CFRA, your job will be protected and waiting for you when you’re ready to return.


Additional Resources

Government resources for California maternity leave can be found here:

Legal resources: It is federally illegal to discriminate against an employee based on their pregnancy status. If you or a loved one feels discriminated against by your employer due to being pregnant, be sure to contact a pregnancy discrimination lawyer in California.

In Summary

California offers a very comprehensive list of options for maternity leave. These laws ensure that expectant parents can take the necessary time off to bond with their newborns, recover physically and emotionally, or grieve the loss of a child. If you or your partner is pregnant, make sure you understand your rights, communicate clearly with your employer, and take advantage of all the support offered.