California Expands Family Leave Protections for Small Business Workers
A new California law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom will now expand family leave protections of small business workers.
With this law, a California small business worker can have up to three months off work to care for a family member or bond with a new child, the Associated Press said in a report.
Newsom signed CA SB 1383 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson to expand the California Family Rights Act. It extends unpaid protections to workers who take family leave.
Newsom, a father of four, also championed the expansion of family leave as a priority for his administration, the Politico noted.
"Californians deserve to be able to take time off to care for themselves or a sick family member without fearing they'll lose their job," Newsom said in a statement.
The protection came as the pandemic raised the need for workers to have time off, whether taking time for their safety or caring for family members who suffered from the coronavirus.
Who will be covered?
The new law will extend job-protected leave to a large portion of the California workforce. Those who come from businesses with five or more employees will be allowed to take their time off to care for a broader set of relatives.
Siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren who are sick can be cared for under the new family leave protections.
The bill also extends protections to workers who want to take time off for relatives who are called to active military duty.
"This is critical for us," said Kevin Zapata, who works for a small e-commerce company.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Zapata can still have the same 12 weeks of job protection as his wife, who works for a large nonprofit.
Currently, companies with 50 or more workers are required to give 12 weeks of leave to its workers who need to care for a new child or a family member.
The threshold for parental leave is lower, letting 12 weeks of job-protected time off for workers in companies with 20 or more employees.
Many Workers Fear Getting Laid Off
California workers automatically pay into the family leave program. It provides them with eight weeks of 60 to 70 percent of the weekly salary. But many employees are not aware of this benefit.
Some are worried they wouldn't have a job to go back to if they took leave. New parents also cite a lack of job protection as the main reason they refuse to take paid family leave when they need, according to a 2018 survey by the California Employment Development Department.
Low wage workers, who likely work for smaller businesses, also show they are less likely to apply for paid family leave.
"Equitable family leave is critical to ensuring equality for women in the workplace," Jackson said in a statement. The senator added that fathers' involvement in their child's lives is also a strong start for children.
California became the first state in the country in 2004 to create a paid family leave program. But Jackson stressed that California has since fallen behind other states in expanding the benefits of the family leave.
In July, the state extended the maximum duration of paid family leave from six weeks to eight weeks. The wage replacement rate was upped from 50 percent to 60-70 percent in 2016.
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