Once upon a time there was no such thing as parental leave, except as a voluntary policy at a handful of progressive companies. Then came mandatory maternity leave (which includes pregnancy disability leave), and finally, paternity leave. The term “parental leave” refers generally to either or both of maternity leave and paternity leave. California parental leave is some of the most employee-friendly legislation in the nation.

Parental leave prevents an employer from firing or laying off an employee for taking time off to spend time with their new child (and, in the case of pregnant women, due to disability caused by pregnancy).

Not All Employers Are Required to Offer Parental Leave

Under current law, employers with fewer than 20 employees are not required to offer parental leave to their employees. This is because, in such small companies, the loss of even a single employee for an extended period of time could cause major adverse effects on the company’s business.

Relevant Legislation

The three most relevant legislative acts pertaining to parental leave in California are:

In the event of a conflict between state law and federal law, federal law generally prevails. California does not violate federal supremacy, however, by offering its residents greater rights than the rights afforded them by federal law; the two California statutes mentioned above do exactly that.


Employees subject to parental leave obligations are required to offer their qualifying employees: 

  • 12 weeks of parental leave within the first year of their child’s birth, adoption, or foster placement. 

  • Pregnant mothers are generally allowed to take an additional 10 to 12 weeks off work due to pregnancy disability. 

How Employees Qualify

To qualify for parental leave, an employee must have:

  • worked for a qualifying employer for at least one year;

  • worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the leave, and

  • work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees in a 75-mile radius (but only 20 employees under the NPLA). 

Employer Payments during Parental Leave

Generally, the only obligation that parental leave places on the employer is not to fire or lay off the employee for taking parental leave. Employers are not required to pay their employees, although they may allow them to take paid sick leave, vacation leave, or personal leave. The only exception is San Francisco where a city ordinance requires certain employers to offer paid leave.

California State Government Payments during Parental Leave

The state of California will pay 60 to 70 percent of most employees' wages, up to a maximum of $1,252 (in 2019) for up to six weeks. This benefit applies even if you work for a company with fewer than 20 employees that is not subject to parental leave obligations.

CKB Vienna Can Help You Navigate the Employment Law Maze

If you are confused about federal or state federal leave policies, if you are involved in a dispute related to parental leave, or if you even anticipate such a dispute, call CKB Vienna today or contact us online so that we can make an appointment to discuss the matter. We serve clients in Rancho Cucamonga, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, and Riverside County.