Governor Signs Jackson Bill To Provide Job-Protected Leave For New Parents

October 12, 2017

SACRAMENTO –  In a signing ceremony today focusing on legislation that affects women, children and families and attended by members of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) that will allow millions more California parents to take time off to care for a newborn without fear of losing their jobs.

Senate Bill 63, the New Parent Leave Act, will provide 12 weeks of job-protected maternity and paternity leave for up to 2.7 million more California parents who work for smaller 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. SB 63 will take effect January 1, 2018.

“This is a great victory for working parents and children in California, and I am grateful to the Governor for signing this bill into law,” said Jackson. “With more women in the workforce, and more parents struggling to balance work and family responsibilities, our policies must catch up to the realities of our economy and the daily lives of working families. We are in the midst of a paradigm shift right now, one in which both parents often work and shoulder caregiving responsibilities, and it is only fitting that our workplaces and public policies adjust accordingly. No one should have to choose between caring for their newborn and keeping their job.”

SB 63, a priority of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus, is the culmination of a two year effort by Jackson to strengthen California’s maternity and paternity leave policies for those who work for smaller employers, and comes as momentum is growing in California and nationwide for stronger family leave policies in both the public and private sectors.

SB 63 gained bipartisan support as it moved through the Legislature this year, and had the support of dozens of early education groups, work and family organizations, health organizations, labor and other advocacy groups who understood the value of family leave for promoting the health and well-being of parents, workers, children and families.

SB 63 also ensures that more Californians who are paying into the Paid Family Leave Program are able to use their benefits without risk of losing their jobs. California’s Paid Family Leave Program, the first in the country when it passed in 2002, is entirely employee funded and provides six weeks of partial wage replacement to workers for caregiving responsibilities, including for bonding with a newborn.

According to a 2011 study, among those who qualified for California’s Paid Family Leave Program and needed leave but did not apply for benefits, 37 percent said they did not apply because they feared they would be fired or face other negative consequences at work.

Research shows that the first 12 weeks of life are critical to a child’s early brain development, and that parental leave is associated with improved maternal and child health, a longer duration of breastfeeding, and improved mental health in new mothers.

An opinion poll, released this year from Small Business Majority and the Center for American Progress, showed that a vast majority of small business owners – 71 percent -- support expanding job protection for family and medical leave to businesses with 20 or more employees. 

A similar bill last year, SB 654, passed with bipartisan support but was vetoed by the Governor, who expressed concerns about litigation. In response to these concerns, SB 63 includes a two-year pilot program within the Department of Fair Employment and Housing to allow employers and employees to mediate disputes under this new parental leave program prior to the filing of litigation.

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