Time off for baby bonding a benefit for new parents 

click to enlarge Both parents of newborns can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the California Family Rights Act.
  • Both parents of newborns can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off under the California Family Rights Act.
This week, I want to continue our discussion about pregnancy leave and focus on issues related to a new parent’s rights after the birth of a child.

If you recall from the previous weeks, the California Family Rights Act provides for up to 12 weeks of job-protected baby-bonding time after your baby is born. Keep in mind that the CFRA only applies if your employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your worksite, you have worked for the employer for at least 12 consecutive months and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months prior to the first date of leave.

Both parents are entitled to CFRA leave to bond with a newborn. Baby-bonding leave must be completed within one year of the birth of the child and can be taken intermittently. If both parents are eligible for CFRA leave but are employed by the same employer, that employer may limit the combined leave rights in connection with the birth to 12 weeks in a 12-month period between the two parents.

To take this baby-bonding leave, there is no requirement that either the employee or child have a serious health condition, nor is there a requirement that the employee be disabled by her pregnancy, childbirth or related medical condition.

Generally, the minimum duration of CFRA baby-bonding leave is two weeks. However, an employer must grant a request for baby-bonding leave of less than two weeks duration (e.g., for one day) on any two occasions.

CFRA and FMLA leave also apply to adoption or foster care in order to care for a newly placed child. This includes absences prior to the placement of the child if required for the placement to proceed (e.g., counseling sessions, court appearances, attorney consultations, medical consultations regarding the birth parent).

This leave must be concluded within one year of the placement for adoption or foster care.

If your are not entitled to CFRA or FMLA leave, or you work for an employer with less than 50 employees, keep in mind that California pregnancy disability leave is available for childbirth and recovery from childbirth or any related medical condition.

While you may be entitled to a job-protected leave under the CFRA, FMLA and PDL, please note that leave under these laws is unpaid. Your employer, however, may have a policy that provides for paid leave.

Moreover, pregnant women may file a claim for state disability insurance benefits, which provide partial wage-replacement for California workers. The usual disability period under SDI for a normal pregnancy is up to four weeks before the expected delivery date and up to six weeks after the actual delivery. If the delivery is by Caesarean section, if there are medical complications, or if you are unable to perform your regular or customary job duties, your doctor may certify a longer period.

Before the birth of your baby, you are entitled to SDI benefits. Once your baby is born, you are entitled paid family leave. PFL is also administered by the SDI program and provides for up to six weeks of benefits for individuals who take time off to bond with a new child. If you already have an active SDI claim for maternity leave, you will automatically be sent the form to transition from SDI to PFL for bonding with your new baby. You may also file the PFL claim form through SDI online.

For more information on this topic, the Dolan Law Firm will be hosting a free informational seminar on pregnancy leave and workplace rights Saturday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. The seminar will be free and open to the public, and will be held at the Dolan Law Firm, 1438 Market St.

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to help@dolanlawfirm.com.

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