Maternity Leave

Maternity Leave California – If you’re about to become a mom, it’s a good idea to learn as much as you can about maternity leave laws in the state and within your company. California is one of several states that has maternity leave laws in place to protect pregnant employees. Your rights and responsibilities as a pregnant employee is important to know, to make your maternity leave smooth for both you and your employer.

When it comes to maternity leave, California has four that you should understand. These laws and the following topics will be addressed on this webpage:

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
  • Pregnancy Disability Leave Law (PDL)
  • Paid Family Leave Law (PFL)
  • Are You Eligible for All of the Maternity Leave Laws?
  • Is Maternity Leave Paid or Unpaid?
  • Maternity Leave California Lawyers

The information on this page is not meant to act as a substitute for speaking with an experienced leave of absence or employment lawyer. Since every pregnancy, employer, and situation is different, the only true way to receive accurate information on this subject is to speak with a attorney.

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act is a federal law that includes providing protection for California women who are pregnant in the workplace. A woman taking maternity leave under FMLA is entitled to a total of 12 weeks off of work in a 12-month period. When talking about maternity leave under this law, there are several qualifying circumstances:

  • Pregnancy disability (i.e. morning sickness, pregnancy-related migraines, doctor-ordered bed rest, preeclampsia, etc.)
  • Prenatal care (doctor visits, including routine check-ups)
  • Child birth
  • Caring for and bonding with a newborn child, under 12 months (available to both mother and father)
  • Caring for a new foster or adopted child, within 12 months of placement (available to both mother and father)

For pregnancy disability, you may use your time off intermittently. For parenting leave (bonding with the child), you may take time off any time within a year of the child’s birth. An example would be that you used six weeks for pregnancy and child birth, then returned to work. You can then take the remaining six weeks at any time within a year of the child’s birth.

To learn more about how an employer or employee qualifies for protection under this law, visit out FMLA California webpage.

California Family Rights Act

The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFHA) wrote the California Family Rights Act to lay out guidelines detailing fair treatment of leave for employers and employees. It is the state version of the FMLA law, with slight but notable differences. CFRA allows a woman to take maternity leave for up to 12 weeks, just like FMLA. However, CFRA does not cover pregnancy disability events like FMLA. Regarding maternity leave California allows parents to only take time off under CFRA for bonding time with the child.

For additional qualifying events and eligibility, visit our California Family Rights Act webpage.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Law

Also at the state level, California has the Pregnancy Disability Leave law to be used as a complement to what is left out of CFRA. Pregnancy disability leave law covers a pregnant woman who becomes incapacitated and allows her to take up to four months total of maternity leave in California. Qualifying events for maternity leave under PDL are:

  • Severe morning sickness
  • Bed rest ordered by the healthcare provider
  • Child birth
  • Recovering from child birth
  • Prenatal care

Under PDL’s maternity leave California determines that the time off isn’t just for parenting time; the employee must be deemed incapable of performing at least one essential job task. If the woman cannot do her job without putting herself or her unborn child at risk, this is considered incapacitated.

Read more about maternity leave California on our Pregnancy Disability Leave PDL page.

Paid Family Leave Law

Paid Family Leave law is different than the other laws talked about above. Only some states offer some type of paid leave benefits to employees and luckily, California is one of those states. If an employee pays into short-term disability insurance (SDI), this program will pay a portion of the employee’s wages while the employee is out on disability leave.

SDI is usually withheld on the employee’s paychecks and paid to the state fund managing this program. Included in the qualifying events, pregnancy and childbirth are considered disabilities that are covered under paid Family Leave law[1]. California allows up to six weeks of partial wage pay as income replacement for parents who choose to take time off, in order to bond with a new child (natural, foster, or adopted children). Below are a few rules that apply to maternity leave under the Paid Family Leave law:

  • There is no 7-day waiting period for pregnancy and time for bonding with a newborn baby[2]
  • PFL is commonly provided automatically to employees on payroll, not as an optional benefit
  • Six weeks of paid time off is the standard length for maternity leave; the maximum possible is 12 weeks
  • State short-term disability benefits in California is 55% of your usual wages, up to $1,075 per week, up to four weeks before the delivery date and up to six weeks after the childbirth
  • The money paid from Paid Family Leave is generally not taxable

Are You Eligible for All of the Maternity Leave California Laws?

There are different laws to cover different circumstances of maternity leave in California. These laws also have different requirements to be eligible to take leave and be protected by these laws:

Maternity Leave Eligibility Requirements Under FMLA and CFRA:

  • Must have worked for qualifying employer for at least one year; and at least 1,250 hours in the last year
  • The company must have at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
  • Must be a California Resident
  • Be a parent taking time off for bonding with child, including same-sex domestic partners

Maternity Leave Eligibility Requirements for Pregnancy Disability Leave:

  • The employer must have 5 or more employees
  • Must be pregnant
  • There is no minimum length of employment and the employee does not need to be working full-time
  • Have a disability required to pregnancy, including: severe morning sickness, physician-ordered bed rest, child birth, recover time, and any other pregnancy-related circumstance

Paid Family Leave Law Eligibility Requirements for Maternity Leave:

  • Must be a resident of California
  • Must have contributed to a State Disability Insurance, which is automatically deducted from most employee’s paychecks
  • Must be taking time off to bond with a newborn, foster, or adopted child, within one year of birth or placement

Is Maternity Leave Paid or Unpaid?

Maternity leave California laws like FMLA, CFRA, and PDL do not require an employer to pay their employees who take time off for maternity leave in California, or for any other qualifying events. Employers do have the right to force an employee to use up sick leave or vacation time before taking leave under these leave laws, though[3]. Paid Family Leave law, on the other hand, does allow an employee to be paid under covered circumstances including maternity leave.

Maternity Leave California Lawyers

Even with all of these maternity leave protection laws in place, employers are still capable of violating these policies and causing despair for the employee. Leave lawyers in California are familiar with these California statutes and can tell you if you’ve been unfairly denied maternity leave. If you think you’ve been wrongly denied your maternity leave rights or have uncertainty of your job due to taking maternity leave (Holmes v. Petrovich Development Co., LLC), contact us immediately. We offer free over-the-phone consultations to talk about your case.

If you are a father and want to know more about paternity leave, visit our main paternity leave for fathers page.


[1] Unemployment Insurance Code § 3300(e)

[2] Unemployment Insurance Code § 3302.1

[3] Government Law Code § 12945(a)