Get Ready to Learn (or Relearn!) How to Administer Leaves Under the New CFRA Expansion!
Even though the COVID pandemic has been the biggest news of the last few months, the California legislature was able to finalize several bills in 2020 and forward them to the Governor at the end of its current session.
Small employers have not needed to be well versed in administering leaves under the Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or it’s California cousin, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). CFRA was originally passed into law in 1993.
This will all change on January 1, 2021.
On September 17th, Governor Newsom signed what may be the most far-reaching of the bills that have been sitting on his desk this month. SB1383, also known as “Unlawful employer practice: California Family Rights Act”, expands leave protections available to employees under CFRA.
Even employers who are currently covered under CFRA and FMLA will need to be aware of the new requirements. SB1383 expands the family members for whom their employees can take leave to provide care, changes the amount of leave available to parents for baby bonding if they both work for the same employer, and eliminates the ‘key employee’ provision.
Among the highlights of SB1383 are:
- Employers with five or more employees are required to provide 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected family leave per year.
- There is no requirement the five employees be within a 75-mile radius of each other. Therefore, businesses that have as few as five employees company-wide, counting employees both inside and outside of California, must comply with the new law for all of its California employees.
- Employees must still have been employed for at least 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours during the last 12 months to be eligible for CFRA.
- Employees are able to take 12 weeks of job-protected CFRA leave for their own serious health conditions. CFRA will still run concurrently with FMLA if the leave is covered under FMLA. The exception continues to be when leave is taken for pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions which are covered under Pregnancy Disability Leave.
- Currently, the only family members for which employees can take CFRA leave are the employee’s parent, child, spouse, or domestic partner. Under SB1383 they may now also take leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild, or sibling.
- Job-protected leave to care for a grandparent, grandchild or sibling is not included in the FMLA. This will mean that if an employee takes 12 weeks of leave to care for these family members under CFRA, they would still be eligible for another 12 weeks of job-protected leave for other qualifying reasons if they are eligible for FMLA.
- SB1383 adds the requirement for 12 weeks of job-protected leave for a qualifying exigency related to the covered active duty or call to active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child or parent in the Armed Forces of the United States. These leaves will be familiar to employers who are covered under the FMLA as it has been part of that law for many years.
- If the employer employs both parents of a new child, SB1383 eliminates the ability to limit the amount of leave the parents can take to bond with the new child. The employer will be required to provide both parents with 12 weeks of job-protected leave for bonding even if the employees take the leave at the same time.
- SB1383 also eliminates the “key employee” exception which allows employers to refuse reinstatement to a salaried employee who is among the highest 10% of the company’s employees.
All employers will need to update their Employee Handbooks effective January 1, 2021. Small employers will need to add information on CFRA and larger employers will need to update the CFRA sections of their Handbook to comply with the new law.
In addition, employers who have never had to worry about CFRA in the past will need to develop the necessary leave administration procedures and documents. Many of the documents needed are California specific and can not be obtained from someone who is only versed in FMLA or uses the related documents from the US Department of Labor website.
Our team at SDHR Consulting are experts on California law and ensure our clients stay in compliance with the changing requirements of both Federal and State law. We can help with an Employee Handbook update, leave administration processes and training as well as many of your other HR needs to stay compliant and to help your company maintain employee engagement and meet your future goals!
About the Author
Traci Hagan, “Treasure Trove”
Traci is an HR Consultant who has been with SDHRC for over 2 years but has over 32 years of experience in employee relations, conflict resolution benefits administration, training and development, workers’ comp, and staffing. Traci’s experiences encompass multi-organizational and cross-cultural issues which allow her to expertly charter the waters of complex problems and where she thrives by discovering and providing solutions for smoother sailing.