Paternity Leave

What Is Paternity Leave?

“Paternity leave” refers to time given to new parents to bond with and raise their child following birth, adoption, or foster care placement. Paternity leave is common among gay couples who choose to raise a child. Since January 1, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom has signed a new bill that essentially eliminates paternity leave in California in favor of the CFRA. This act basically eliminates New Family Leave laws and replaces them with rights under the CFRA. Under this new law, employers with 5 or more employees will
need to offer at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. This law extends to employees that have worked 1,250 hours within the past 12 months, so partial employees would not be able to take advantage of this.

Employers are also required to offer more unpaid leave for other reasons. For example, employers must provide additional leave if an employee faces certain family issues, medical issues, personal issues, and, of course, paternity issues. Additionally, if both parents are working at the same workplace together, the
employer may not simply issue 12 weeks of leave combined for both of the employees; each employee is individually entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

The CFRA, however, is limited to unpaid leave. For many families, this is only part of the battle. Paid Family Leave provides a partial wage replacement for eligible individuals who take time off work to bond with a new child, including an adopted child. Therefore, PFL provides financial benefits to keep employees afloat while taking advantage of the time off they may be entitled to under the CFRA.

Notably, San Francisco requires employers to provide supplemental parental leave compensation in addition to the state-wide requirements.

Does my employer provide paternity leave?

The legislation is in place to protect paternity rights. The California Family Rights Act (the CFRA) and federally-mandated Family Medical Leave Act (the FMLA) require employers with 50 or more employees to give their workers 12 weeks of unpaid paternity leave. Similarly, the CFRA now extends to employers with as few as 5 employees, as opposed to the previous system, which required 20. Under the new CFRA, California employees will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees for covered reasons. Critically, these rights under the CFRA have been extended to all employees.

Am I eligible for paternity leave?

In order to be eligible for paternity leave under the CFRA, an employee must:

  • Have worked for the employer for at least 12 months
  • Have worked 1,250 hours within the past 12 months; and
  • Have worked at a location that employs 50 employees within a 75-mile radius (eliminated as of January 1, 2021).

As of January 1, 2021, the CFRA has taken over the FMLA, allowing all employees who work in a company with over 5 employees to take time off to care for their child. The law states that all employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in California. The new law also states that the company cannot deny leaving to an employee if they are in the 10% wage earners bracket, nor may employers cap the time off to a combined 12 weeks to both spouses (where applicable). This means that each individual employee gets 12 weeks of time off; they need not split it between themselves.

How much time do I get off for paternity leave?

California employees typically get up to 12 weeks of paternity during their child’s first year since birth, adoption, or foster placement. Mothers and fathers are entitled to the same amount of parental leave. In California, it is illegal to discriminate against parental leave based on sex or gender identity. However, women typically receive more time off work because of pregnancy. “Pregnancy disability leave” provides up to four months of leave for eligible mothers before the birth of their child, in addition to the 12 weeks discussed above. If a cisgender man were denied pregnancy disability leave, this would not be considered discrimination.

Will I be paid during my paternity leave?

Under the CFRA, there is no requirement for California employers to compensate their employees while on parental leave. Therefore, most employers do not pay employees during their time off. Instead, an employee may request compensation that would have been used for vacation time, sick days, or paid time off (PTO).

However, California, unlike many other states, has a paid family leave program. With PFL, Parents are often eligible to receive partial wages during their parental leave. California generally pays 60 percent of employees’ wages for six weeks of their parental leave. Low-income earners may even be compensated up to 70% of their usual wages. In addition, employees may supplement this partial wage replacement with their aforementioned vacation time, sick days, and PTO in order to receive up to 100% of their typical, full-time compensation.