Jackson's New Parent Leave Bill Heads To The Governor

August 31, 2016

SACRAMENTO – A California Legislative Women’s Caucus priority bill to provide job-protected new parent leave for up to 2.7 million more Californians has passed off the Senate floor and is now headed to the Governor’s desk. The vote was 24-12.

Senate Bill 654 by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), the New Parent Leave Act, will provide six weeks of unpaid job-protected maternity and paternity leave for employees of companies with 20 to 49 employees. Under current law, only those who work for an employer of 50 or more are eligible for job-protected leave.

 This bill would allow these employees to access the state’s Paid Family Leave Program without fear of losing their jobs. The Paid Family Leave Program – which is paid for by employees, not employers – provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement for caregiving responsibilities through the State Disability Insurance Program. 

“I am thrilled that this bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk. We live in a world today where both men and women are in the workforce, and both need the opportunity to care for a newborn while being able to return to a job when that leave is done. No one should have to choose between caring for a baby or keeping their job, “ said Jackson, who is chair of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus. “But because of an inequity in our job-protection laws, mothers and fathers who work for companies of 49 or fewer employees could be fired for utilizing our state’s Paid Family Leave Program to bond with their new child, even though they already pay into the program.”

SB 654 would give job-protected parental leave to up to 2.7 million more Californians, or 16% of California’s workforce, while impacting just six percent of California businesses. Recognizing the importance of small businesses to the economy, Jackson recently scaled back the bill to provide six weeks of leave, instead of the bill’s original 12 weeks, and to apply to companies with 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, instead of 10.

“I believe that employees who are able to take this leave will be loyal employees, better parents and our children will have a stronger and more supported start,” said Jackson.

"This is an exciting day for California! I'm thrilled that the Legislature heard us - new parents, health care providers, teachers and advocates all know that children and families thrive when new parents have the right to bond with their children, “ said Jenya Cassidy, director of the California Work and Family Coalition.

With this bill, California will join nine other states and the District of Columbia in extending job-protected parental leave to small business employees. To be eligible for the leave, the employee must have worked for the company for at least a year and for at least half-time. To give businesses more time to prepare, the bill would take effect January 1, 2018.

SB 654 passed off the Assembly floor yesterday on a bipartisan, 54-17 vote.