California legislators have expanded paternity leave laws under the California Family Rights Act and Paid Family Leave Law in the beginning of 2021. Although, in the past, most leaves had to do with mothers, fathers now have increased leave benefits through paternity leave. Today, we’re going to summarize the changes that employers need to be aware of about paternity leave. 

What is Paternity Leave?

Like maternity leave rights, paternity leave refers to the time a father takes off of work to care for a child, usually within the first 12 months after they have a biological child or become a father through foster care or adoption. In California, paternity leave rights apply to both biological fathers and fathers through other means, with several of the expanded paternity law laws applying to same-sex spouses. 

Previously, under the New Parent Leave Act, fathers were able to get up to 12 weeks of paternity leave. However, the protections under this specific law applied mostly to smaller employers, with as few as 20 employees. Since then, this law has been repealed and replaced with the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which gives more paternity leave benefits to fathers across the state of California.

Paternity Leave in 2021

As of January 1, 2021, the CFRA expansion has enacted changes that affect fathers through Senate Bill 1383. Under this expansion, fathers can take up to 12 weeks of paternity leave within one year. This leave can be used to bond with a new child, care for someone in their family with a health condition, or handle a health condition that has made their current job duties too difficult.

One of the biggest differences brought forth with this bill is the expanded definition of what counts as a family member or child. Family members now include spouses, parents, or children. A child can be biological, adopted, or from a foster care placement. If two married spouses are both employed by the same employer, they are both allowed to take up 12 weeks of state law-protected paternity leave in California.

Additionally, the Paid Family Leave Law entitles eligible fathers to receive partial pay during the 12 weeks they can take off. But the Paid Family Leave law does not provide job protection; instead, it focuses on wage replacement. It applies to employees with a new child and can be used during the 12 months following the time of birth of a new child, adoption, or foster care placement. Under this law, eligible employees will be compensated 60%-70% of their gross wages. Their gross wages are determined by the amount they earned in the five to eighteen months before their claim start date. They will be compensated for these wages for up to eight weeks. This compensation package can be used once during a 12-month period. 

What This Means For California Employers in 2021

California employers are responsible for complying with these new Paternity Leave changes. To make sure that your business stays in compliance with the updated regulations, employers should:

  • Update any employment policies, employee handbooks, or other documents that relate to Paternity Leave;
  • Have forms documenting the leave requested as well as other documentation on medical or military records (i.e. Benefits During Leaves of Absence, California Family Rights Act Brochure, PDL FMLA CFRA Documentation Checklist, and Request for Leave of Absence);
  • Provide employees with a poster about CFRA displayed in their place of business, which is available on the DFEH website; and
  • Train human resources, supervisors, managers, etc., on these changes and how they will affect their workforce.

As an employer, offering a strong paternity leave package shows that you support your employees taking this time off to bond with their children. There is a particular stigma uniquely surrounding paternity leave, and support from employers is important to create a calmer and more productive workplace culture. It’s also important that employers understand the laws so that they don’t create legal conflict with their employees. 

Key Takeaways 

The expanded definitions and requirements outlined in the new Paternity Leave laws are complex. It’s important that these laws are understood and properly followed. Connect with your employment attorney to revise or draft a paternity leave policy consistent with the new leave laws. If you need assistance navigating paternity leave or any employment matters, please contact Hackler Flynn & Associates.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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