Jackson Bill Would Guarantee Job-Protected Bonding Time for New Parents

April 11, 2016

SACRAMENTO – As momentum grows for stronger family leave policies across the country, a bill is making its way through the California Legislature to strengthen leave laws for new parents.

Senate Bill 1166 by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the New Parent Leave Act, would guarantee 12 weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave for nearly all Californians, benefiting new mothers, fathers and adoptive parents. It will be up for a vote on April 13 in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, a week after New York and San Francisco took action to significantly strengthen family leave policies for their residents.

Once the nationwide leader on family leave, California now is falling behind other states on an issue critical to working families.

“More than 10 years ago, California led the way when it enacted the nation’s first ever Paid Family Leave Program to provide partial wage replacement for family caregiving responsibilities,” said Jackson, who is chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “But we’ve fallen behind a handful of other states who are now doing better than we are on family leave. With women in the workforce more than ever before, we must continue to make stronger family leave a priority, so that new parents do not have to face an impossible choice between bonding with a newborn and losing their job.”

SB 1166 addresses an inequity in new parent leave laws.

While employees of companies of 50 or more employees are guaranteed 12 weeks of job-protected family leave under state and federal law, those same protections are not extended to the more than 40% of Californians who work for smaller businesses with less than 50 employees.  SB 1166 will ensure that all Californians who work for companies of five or more can take 12 weeks of new parent leave without losing their jobs.

Without job protection, millions of Californians who work for smaller companies cannot take advantage of the state’s Paid Family Leave Program, even though they pay into it through employee payroll deductions. The Paid Family Leave Program provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement for some caregiving responsibilities, including care for a newborn or adopted child, through the State Disability Insurance Program.

“Paid Family Leave benefits are meaningless if an employee can be fired for using them,” said Jackson. “Parents need to know that when they come back after taking this critical bonding time with a newborn, their jobs will be there.”

"It’s time for California to make good on its promise to working families, by assuring parents caring for a new child that their job will be there when they need it the most,"said Mariko Yoshihara, legislative counsel and policy director for the California Employment Lawyers Association, one of the sponsors of the measure along with Equal Rights Advocates    

and the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.

The recently signed New York law provides 12 weeks of paid, job-protected leave regardless of employer size. In Washington D.C., all employees have 16 weeks of job-protected family leave.  In Maine, workers at companies with 15 or more employees have 10 weeks of job-protected leave. Minnesota offers 6 weeks of job-protected leave for workers at companies with 21 or employees, and Oregon provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave for workers at companies with 25 or more employees. 

This 12-week new parent leave timeframe is supported by research.

For new birth moms, having less than 12 weeks of new parent leave is associated with increased symptoms of postpartum depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy  full-term infants wait until 12 weeks of age to enroll in child care due to rapid developmental changes and the risk of illness. Research shows that fathers who take family leave are more engaged with their newborns, and that children whose parents take leave enjoy better health and higher graduation rates.

SB 1166 is a priority of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus as part of their Stronger California legislative agenda this year.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.