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Family Leave for a 21st Century (SB 135, Jackson)

Senate Bill 135 authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson will ensure that nearly all Californians who pay into the Paid Family Leave Program can use it without losing their jobs; that more newborns can receive individual care for their first six months of life, an essential time for early brain development; and that California’s leave laws reflect the state’s diverse, multigenerational families and caregiving needs.

Fifteen years ago, California enacted the nation’s first Paid Family Leave Program; however, there is no job protection directly associated with the Paid Family Leave Program, leaving far too many Californians struggling with the impossible choice of whether to care for their newborn or loved one or jeopardize their job and economic security. The gap between the State’s Paid Family Leave program and job-protection laws disproportionately affects low-wage workers, who are at the highest risk for losing their job when needing to access leave.

SB 135 will also align and expand the definition of family members in the state’s leave laws to reflect the diverse caregiving needs and families in California. Overall, as it is currently structured, Paid Family Leave largely operates to support better-off two-parent families, even though in California, a large share of infants are born to unmarried mothers. From 2000 to 2013, births to unmarried women accounted for 35% to 40% of all births. By allowing more family members to bond with a new child, SB 135 will help ensure all California’s children will have someone there for those critical few months after birth.

SB 135 will also allow more workers to access the leave by improving job protection, which is especially important for vulnerable workers who are paying for the program. California’s family leave remains out of reach for many working residents who pay into it. Because of laws which limit job protection by the size of employer and a narrow list of family members, many employees cannot use the program they pay into for fear of losing their jobs if they do.

This bill will give newborns a greater chance to receive their strongest developmental start, while ensuring our leave laws reflect the reality of California’s working families today. It will simplify and strengthen the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), the California law which provides 12 weeks of job-protected leave for caregiving and serves as the job-protection foundation for California’s landmark Paid Family Leave Program.

 

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