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eqHR Business Tips: Understanding Pregnancy Leave in California

Posted on November 16, 2015

An employee tells you she is pregnant and due in a few months. You ask youself, how does Pregnancy Disability Leave work? How do I explain and keep track of the time she can take off?

Navigating pregnancy leave can be confusing for employers. It is important to track and document the leave entitlement for the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) and ensure that you are providing the correct information.  If do need assistance, please call our offices (855-461-8808). 

Remember, you must notify the employee the designation of her leave. For example, youwould say that the leave for 12 weeks has been designated as PDL. If they are taking additional CFRA leave, you must also designate that leave as well.

Keep track of the leave and how much time counts toward each type (i.e. PDL, FMLA or CFRA)

The three primary regulations that regulate pregnancy leaves are the Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL),the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

  • In California, employers with 5 employees or more are required to provide up to 4 months or 17 -/3 weeks of job-protected time off. Here are some important things to know about Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL):
  • All employees are eligible, full-time and part-time, regardless of how long they have been with your company.
  • Full-time employees are eligible for up to 693 hours of leave (17-1/3 multiplied by 40 hours), part-time employees are pro-rated by the number of hours they work per week (i.e. someone working 20 hours per week would be eligible for 346.5 hours or 17-1/3 multiplied by 20 hours).
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA) leave does not run concurrently with PDL. Therefore, an employee can take up to an additional 12 weeks of protected leave under CFRA (if she is eligible for CFRA), after her PDL has ended.
  • The 12 week leave entitlement under Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does run concurrently with PDL and should be designated as such if the employee is eligible for FMLA when the leave is requested and approved.
  • PDL does not have to be taken all at once, for example, if your employee takes 2 weeks off at the beginning of the pregnancy due to severe morning sickness, the 2 weeks count toward her 17-1/3 week entitlement. She then has 15-1/3 weeks remaining of her PDL entitlement for this pregnancy. Employees may take PDL in any increment: hours, days, weeks, or months.
  • The employee’s health care benefits must stay in effect the same as they were prior to the leave. The employer can collect the employee portion of the premium amount from the employee during the leave.
  • PDL is unpaid, however, the employer can require the employee to use any accrued and unused sick time while on leave. The employer cannot require her to use vacation time or personal time off. She may also be eligible for State Disability Insurance (SDI) while on PDL.
  • The employer can and should require that the employee provide medical certification that she is disabled due to pregnancy. The certification should include the date that she became disabled, and the date the disability will end.
  • When the employee returns from PDL, she must be reinstated to the same position she had prior to her leave. The only exceptions are if she would have been laid off for legitimate business reasons even if she had not taken the leave. Also, if the employer cannot reinstate the employee to the same position, for legitimate business reasons, she is entitled to return to a comparable position.
  • Employees may also request temporary transfers or duty restrictions as pregnancy related accommodations. Accommodation requests should follow your usual procedure for reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilties Act (ADA).

To manage your employee’s leave, make sure you do the following:

  1. Have the employee provide you written notice of her need to take leave including the projected dates she will need to be off work.
  2. Provide the employee a notice of their rights. Sample forms – click DFEH
  • Ask for medical certification, sample form click here:

Call us today if you need to assitance or require guidance for a specfic employment leave situation.

This article was written by Lauren Sims, an eqHR Solutions Principal Consultant and may be contacted by calling eqHR Solutions.