Expansion of Family Members Under Paid Family Leave Program Does Not Impose New Leave Mandate on Employers

(October 3, 2013) A recently signed bill, SB 770 (Jackson; D-Santa Barbara) simply expands the type of family members for whom an employee may seek wage replacement benefits under the Paid Family Leave (PFL) and does not place any new mandates on employers. This legislation will not go into effect until July 1, 2014.

California’s PFL program is a wage replacement program that provides employees with some financial compensation when they are out on either an employer approved leave of absence or a separate protected leave of absence, such as leave under California’s Family Rights Act (CFRA), to care for the heath condition of a family member or bond with a child.  PFL is not by itself a protected leave of absence from work and does not provide employees with an independent right to take a leave of absence from work if an employer does not actually approve the leave.  The recently signed, SB 770 does not change this.

PFL does not create the right to a leave of absence, but provides partial wage replacement for California workers during a qualifying absence.

Prior to SB 770, an employee could only seek wage replacement benefits under PFL if:

  1. the employee was on an approved leave of absence to bond with a child within the first year of the child’s birth, placement as a foster child, or after adoption;

  2. or the employee was on leave to care for the serious health condition of a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner.  SB 770 expanded the second category of PFL to include the right to obtain wage replacement benefits while an employee is out on leave to care for the serious health condition of a grandparent, grandchild or sibling, or parent-in-law, as defined.

Accordingly, any leave taken to care for the serious condition of one of these new family members would not be required by law, but rather would have to be approved by the employer.

CalChamber believes this is the right approach for any leaves of absences from work.  Instead of mandating new leaves of absences through statute, any leave of absence from work should provide the employer with the discretion to balance the employee’s need for a leave of absence with the existing demands of the workplace.

Staff Contact: Jennifer Barrera