As of January 1, 2021, the legislation enacted by Governor Gavin Newsom expanding the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and opening up job-protected leave for millions of Californians is in effect. The bill, known as SB 1383, provides 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for those who work for an employer with five or more employees to: 

  • Bond with a newborn
  • Care for a seriously ill family member
  • Address a military exigency
  • Care for their own illness

Prior to SB 1383, an employer had to have 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of leave (or 20 for new parent leave). SB 1383 aligns the employer-size threshold under the CFRA with the employer-size threshold for pregnancy disability leave, which has been in place since 1978. Newsom said this lower threshold will impact nearly 6 million Californians. 

The new law also eliminates the requirement that the employee work within 75 miles of a worksite. Larger employers with remote workers or workers in smaller locations will now be covered by CFRA. In addition, “family member” used to be defined as the employee’s parent, child, spouse, or domestic partner; under the new law, this is expanded to include grandparents, grandchildren, and siblings. 

Before the bill, 40% of Californians who worked for small companies were at risk of losing their jobs if they took leave to care for a seriously ill family member or themselves. COVID-19 has put a spotlight on this issue, a fact reflected in the governor’s statement that the bill now ensures that California workers affected by COVID-19 can take the time they need to care for themselves and their families and keep their workspaces and communities healthy and safe. 

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), who wrote the bill, said, “With this bill, millions of hard-working Californians will finally be able to use the paid family leave benefits they pay for without fear of losing their jobs.” Co-author Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) added: “This is a major step forward for working parents across the state, and will provide families with the protections they need during this public health crisis.”


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