California Parental Leave | Pay Amount & Length of Time Off

A multitude of California laws provide input into how much pay you receive during parental leave, and how long your time off from work might last – without jeopardizing your job or access to group health insurance.

Maternity leave lasts longer because mothers often stop working before giving birth and may suffer medical complications and or depression after delivery.

Meanwhile, paternity leave ends more quickly because fathers remain physically able to work while caring for a spouse or bonding with a baby.

Of course, every rule has an exception. Teachers, government employees, and self-employed individuals may wind up with far different outcomes.

California Parental Leave Laws

Below is a summary of the eight California laws affecting how much parental leave pays, and how long legal safeguards might last. The eligibility criteria for each regulation differ. Plus, each person has a unique situation.

  • Three laws determine your level of financial compensation – if any
  • Five regulations define how much time you can take off from work without losing your job or access to group health insurance

Monetary Benefits

Four different sets of California laws could influence how much in monetary benefits you might receive during parental leave – if eligible. The projected amounts for PFL and SDI pertain to most people.[1]

  • $0 benefit applies to parents who do not qualify because they did not contribute to the system
  • $50 weekly amount goes to people who earned less than $928.99 in their highest base period quarter
  • 60% income replacement level applies when your highest quarterly earnings during any base period are more than $5,385.37
  • 70% earnings replacement level kicks in when your highest quarterly earnings are between $929 and $5,385.37
  • The maximum weekly benefit amount ($1,252) means you must earn at least $27,126.67 in a calendar quarter during your base period

Loans & Medical Billing

Several California laws pertaining to loans and medical billing can affect your parental leave experience. Many people borrow money to help make ends meet when they experience extra medical bills while their income drops by 30% to 40%.

  • Taking out a maternity leave loan may be more difficult thanks to Assembly Bill 539, which caps the interest rate at 36% for consumer loans of $2,500 to $10,000.[2]
  • Medical billing laws can protect families from surprise out-of-network charges such as an anesthesiologist administering an epidural or a perinatologist dropping by during high-risk labor and delivery.

Paid Family Leave

The California Paid Family Leave (PFL) covers both mothers and fathers during parental leave.

  • Duration
    • 6 weeks during any 12 months
  • Eligibility
    • Made CA-SDI or DIEC contributions during last 5 to 18 months
    • Collecting unemployment insurance and actively seeking new work
  • Reasons
    • Bond with a biological, foster, or adopted child
    • Caring for a seriously ill child, spouse, or domestic partner

State Disability Insurance

California state disability insurance (SDI) covers mothers working for non-public employers during parental leave.

  • Duration
  • Eligibility
    • Unable to do your regular or customary work for at least eight days
    • Be employed or actively looking for a job before disability begins
    • CA SDI deductions withheld of at least $300 during the base period
    • DEIC deductions of $300 or more for self-employed
  • Reasons: lost wages because you are unable to work
    • Non-work related accident or illness
    • Early pregnancy-related medical complications where a doctor requires you to stop working months before your expected due date
      • Severe morning sickness
      • Low back pain that inhibits movement
      • Anemia with clear insufficiencies
      • Carpal tunnel that interferes with work duties
    • 4 weeks before your expected due date for normal pregnancy
    • Recovery from childbirth (labor & delivery)
      • 6 weeks for a vaginal birth
      • 8 weeks for a C-section delivery
    • Postpartum medical complications
      • Excessive bleeding
      • Birth injuries to mother
      • Post-surgical infections (C-section or episiotomy)

SDI also covers any mental illness that prevents a person from performing her regular and customary work. Women experiencing postpartum depression may qualify to extend leave for this reason – up to 52 weeks total after subtracting any benefits claimed for childbirth or pregnancy.

The EDD calculator for SDI & PFL benefits is the best place to turn for an accurate estimate of the weekly amount the two programs might pay out.

Unemployment Insurance

California unemployment insurance (CA UI) can become an essential monetary benefit after a parental leave scenario concludes. Many mothers and fathers lose their jobs through no fault of their own because they were unable to work for an extended period.

The EDD unemployment pay amount calculator can estimate the benefits parents can receive once they are available for work after caretaking duties end. Keep in mind the universal criteria before applying.

  • Physically able to work
  • Available for duty
  • Actively seeking a new job

Once available for duty, CA unemployment law opens a door. It defines a good cause reason for voluntarily quitting to include the care of a sick family member when no suitable alternative is available.[3] A seriously ill family member could encompass three parental leave scenarios.

  1. Care of a wife suffering pregnancy complications before birth
  2. Monitor a premature or low birth weight baby at home
  3. Watch over a wife dealing with postpartum disorders

Job Protections

Five separate California laws combine to offer legal safeguards during parental leave situations. The rules determine how long your employer must hold your job open while on disability or family leave.

Of course, the CA-specific regulations apply only to people who work in the state. Residents who commute over borders to jobs in Arizona, Nevada, or Oregon lose these valuable benefits.

Each regulation has unique qualifying criteria, and every person has distinct circumstances. Therefore, you must apply each statute to your state of affairs to determine how long these rights might last.

  • Take job-protected leave without interference, restraint, or retaliation
  • Have group health insurance maintained under the same terms and conditions
  • Restored to the same or an equivalent position after taking time off from work

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal regulation that provides twelve weeks of unpaid parental leave to California families. FMLA is the cornerstone for other rules and it can apply before and or after birth.

  • Covered Employers
    • 50 plus employees working within a 75-mile radius
  • Eligible Employees
    • Worked at employer 12 months
    • 1,250 hours logged in that time
  • Valid Reasons
    • Birth and care of the employee’s child
    • Placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care
    • Care of an immediate family member with a severe health condition
    • For the employee’s own serious health condition

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) also provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave legal safeguards and differs from the federal FMLA in two significant ways.

  1. Domestic partners have expanded eligibility as a family member under CFRA
  2. Pregnancy-related disabilities do not count under CFRA preserving time to baby bonding after birth

New Parent Leave Act (NPLA)

The California New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) provides eligible employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to bond with a new child within one year after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

The NPLA expands the number of covered employers for a narrow set of qualifying circumstances (baby bonding only).

  • 20 employees working within a 75-mile radius: NPLA
  • 50 employees working within a 75-mile radius: FMLA & CFRA

Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL)

The California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) law provides job and health insurance protections to mothers that can last up to 4 months – if you qualify.[4]

Eligible moms work for employers with more than 5 employees. There is no minimum number of hours or years worked.

A valid reason to take advantage of PDL before birth includes the following:

  • Severe morning sickness
  • Prenatal or postnatal care
  • Need for bed rest
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension
  • Preeclampsia
  • Postpartum depression
  • Lactation problems (mastitis)
  • Miscarriage recovery

Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA)

The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) does not provide legal job protections during parental leave. However, the FEHA does prohibit employment discrimination due to disability or pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.

California Maternity Leave

California maternity leave benefits for mothers are the most generous in the country. However, even with the progressive culture, inequality still reigns when it comes to outcomes. Each law has different qualifying criteria, and every person has a unique experience.

For example, one woman could have a normal pregnancy and give birth to one healthy infant. Meanwhile, another could endure a high-risk gestation and deliver twins born prematurely. The mother with the sick twins will need more time off.

Amount Mothers

The amount of pay that California mothers receive during maternity leave ranges from $0 on up to $1,250 per week and every figure in between. Expectant women often qualify for both SDI and PFL benefits in succession, which follow the same formula to calculate the amount.

However, mothers are far less likely to qualify to collect the CA UI weekly maximum of $450.

  • Care of a sick infant is the sole “good cause” reason
  • Legal job protections can last up to 7 months

Length Mothers

The length of maternity leave in California for mothers varies quite a bit because so many laws and circumstances can come into play.

Job and health insurance protections can last from 0 days up to 7 months for mothers depending on qualifications and circumstances.

  • PDL offers up to 4 months to mothers working for employers with more than 5 employees
  • FMLA, CFRA, and NPLA (20 or more employees) allow an additional 12 weeks to bond with a newborn baby

The monetary benefits can last from 0 days to 12 months and every possible figure in between because of the many valid claim reasons that often occur.

  • 0 days of monetary benefits affect women who did not make CA-SDI or DEIC payroll contributions
  • 52 weeks of partial earnings replacement can happen when women experience a prolonged pregnancy disability followed by postpartum depression or medical problems

Public Employees

The maternity leave benefits for public employees in California can be a confusing topic because they are exempt from the CASDI mandate – although many participate through a collective bargaining agreement.[5]

Check with your union representative if you fall into any of these groups.

  • Public school teachers often do not fund CASDI and cannot collect SDI or PFL
  • Federal government workers are exempt from SDI payroll deductions
  • State government employees fall into two groups
    • Bargaining units 1, 3, 4, 11, 14, 15, 17, 20, and 21 pay into SDI
    • Bargaining units 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 16, 18, and 19 participate in the participate in Nonindustrial Disability Insurance (NDI) and Family Care Leave (NDI-FCL) programs, which cap weekly payments at $250


The maternity leave benefits for self-employed individuals in California run the gamut because many of the laws exempt independent contractors and people who work in small businesses.

Self-employed individuals can participate in the Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DEIC), which works like SDI and PFL to provide monetary benefits.[6] However, you must enroll in advance and make sufficient contributions during earlier base periods to qualify.

Self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and small business employees are rarely eligible for legal jobs and health insurance protection because they do not meet the employee-size criteria.

  • FMLA: 50
  • CAFRA: 50
  • NPLA: 20
  • PDL: 5

California Paternity Leave

Paternity leave in California works much differently for fathers. The benefit amounts are the same as for mothers but do not last as long. However, the brevity of legal rights makes it easier to collect unemployment should dad lose his job.

Amount Fathers

The amount of pay that California fathers receive paternity leave also ranges from $0 on up to $1,250 per week and every figure in between. However, new dads are only eligible for PFL benefits because they could care for a sick spouse or infant, or bond with a newborn baby – and do not suffer a disability.

On the other hand, fathers are more likely to collect the $450 maximum CA UI weekly benefit because men have fewer legal job protections compared to women. New dads can apply after their caretaking duties end if they quit work for a good cause reason.

Length Fathers

Twenty-four weeks is the maximum length of unpaid legal job and health insurance protections for California fathers taking paternity leave. Men could qualify under three different laws, which provide twelve weeks for reasons that can overlap or be mutually exclusive.

  • 12-weeks to care for wife suffering pregnancy complications qualify under FMLA and CFRA
  • 12-weeks to bond with a newborn baby, adopted infant, or child placed in foster care under the NPLA, FMLA, and CFRA.

However, many fathers have zero weeks of these legal rights. Dads working for small businesses (less than 20 employees under NPLA), acting as independent contractors, or running a self-employed operation do not qualify.

Also, the monetary benefits under PFL cease after only six weeks – if eligible. Only the 26-week maximum duration for CA UI appears to work in favor of fathers.

[1] CA EDD Disability & PFL

[2] CA Assembly Bill 539

[3] CAEDD Unemployment Voluntary Quit

[4] CA Department of Fair Employment & Housing

[5] CA EDD State Employees

[6] CA EDD Elective Coverage