Parental Leave for California Educators

Parental leave is provided to educators and other public school employees so they can care for their new child.

Many educators will start or add to their families during their careers. As a California public school employee, your rights to pregnancy disability and parental leave are governed by California state and federal law as well as by your collective bargaining agreement. We’ve included some helpful information below.

Parental leave

“Parental leave” means “leave for reason of the birth of a child of the employee, or the placement of a child with an employee in connection with the adoption or foster care of the child by the employee” (Educ. Code §§ 44977.5, 45196.1, 88196.1, 87780.1). Various statutes provide for this leave. You should consult your chapter about additional rights that may be provided to you by your collective bargaining agreement. You’ll also want to confirm with your school district what paperwork you need to file when, and with whom, to qualify for parental leaves. For more information on leave rights and on your rights as a California public school employee, visit the Legal Services section of MyCTA or contact your local CTA staff representative.

Who qualifies & what are my rights?

Under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), parents, regardless of gender, have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year to bond with a newborn or a newly-adopted child or foster child provided they have worked for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. The leave must be taken within one year of the baby’s birth or the child’s placement in your home and can be taken intermittently in blocks of time (2 C.C.R. §11090(d)). Your employer may require that you provide at least 30 days’ advance notice of your need for parental leave when your need for the leave is foreseeable (2 C.C.R. §11091(a)(2)).

In addition, if you are a certificated, community college academic, or classified employee, then under the California Education Code, you may take up to 12 workweeks of child bonding leave if you have worked for the district for at least 12 months, regardless of how many hours you have worked during that time (Educ. Code §§ 44977.5, 45196.1, 88196.1, 87780.1). Unlike CFRA, the Education Code does not require 1,250 hours of service to qualify for this leave, but because this leave runs concurrently with CFRA leave, you must not have used up your CFRA-leave entitlement in the previous 12-month period to be eligible for the leave. You are also entitled under the Education Code to receive differential pay, which may be no less than 50 percent of your regular salary, during CFRA-covered parental leave after you have exhausted all available sick leave (Educ. Code §§ 44977.5, 45196.1, 88196.1, 87780.1)

What are the benefits?

Your employer must maintain your health insurance coverage (Gov. Code § 12945.2; 2 C.C.R. § 11092). It must also continue to allow you to accrue seniority and longevity, retain your classification, and receive other benefits you would ordinarily receive on other types of leave, such as life, short-term or long-term disability or accident insurance coverage, and pension and retirement credit based on any compensation earned (Gov. Code § 12945.2; 2 C.C.R. § 11092).

Unpaid leave under the CFRA and FMLA, as well as associated Education Code parental leave, run concurrently, so parents are generally only entitled by statute to one 12-week leave per year for baby bonding, not to a 24-week leave. However, as discussed below, birth mothers might be eligible for additional benefits (including additional time off) under California’s Pregnancy Disability Leave law.

When you return to work at the conclusion of your leave, the district must reinstate you to the same or an equivalent position (Gov. Code § 12945.2). If you remain on leave longer than 12 weeks, you can continue to maintain your health insurance by paying the premiums yourself under COBRA, but the district is not obligated to hold your particular position for you until you choose to return.

Pregnancy-related disability leave

The California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) Law requires employers to provide up to four months of unpaid leave for employees who are disabled by pregnancy (Gov. Code § 12945). In addition, if you are a certificated, community college academic, or classified employee, then under the Education Code, you may receive up to five school months of differential pay due to illness or injury after exhausting all annual and accumulated sick leave. That means that if you have a pregnancy-related disability before or after the child’s birth, you may use all annual and accumulated sick leave and then up to five school months of differential pay leave, as long as your need for pregnancy disability leave is verified by your physician (Educ. Code §§ 44977, 45196, 88196, 87780, 87786). You do not need to work for a specified length or amount of time to be eligible. The district can run PDL concurrently with this differential pay leave.  

Once you are no longer disabled, you are entitled to an additional 12 weeks of parental bonding leave, assuming you have not yet exhausted CFRA/FMLA leave for that year.

Using sick leave

To receive full pay during the period of your pregnancy-related disability leave, you can use any paid sick leave that you have accumulated:

  • If you work full-time for a public school employer as a certificated or community college academic employee, you accrue 10 days of paid sick leave a year. If you work part-time, you accrue sick leave proportionate to the number of days per week that you work (Educ. Code §§ 44978, 87781).
  • If you work full time for a public school employer as a classified or community college classified employee, you accrue 12 days of paid sick leave per year if you are a 12-month employee employed five days a week. Paid sick leave is pro-rated if you are employed less than 12 months or less than five days a week (Educ. Code §§ 45191, 88191). 

Unused sick leave accumulates from year to year with no cap and may be transferable to another school district or community college district (Educ. §§ Code 44979, 45202, 87782, 88202).

As discussed above, parents may use accumulated sick leave when taking up to 12 workweeks of parental leave under the Education Code.

Employees should always check their collective bargaining agreements for any additional benefits that might be available.