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Major Changes to California Family Rights Act Effective January 1, 2021

Governor Newsom signed SB 1383 into law on September 17, 2020, amending the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) effective January 1, 2021.  The changes expand CFRA’s footprint well beyond that of FMLA.

Current CFRA Provisions

The current CFRA provisions mirror FMLA with one major exception:  CFRA cannot be taken for the employee’s disability due to pregnancy.

CFRA currently applies to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius.  Employees who have been employed at least 12 months  and at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months are eligible for 12 weeks of leave within a 12 month period for:

  • Birth and care of a newborn child
  • Placement of an adopted or foster child
  • Care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition (includes registered domestic partners)
  • Employee’s own serious health condition, excluding incapacity due to pregnancy.

If both parents of a child are employed by the same employer, the employer is authorized to grant both employees a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during the 12-month period

SB 1383 Key CFRA Changes 

5-Employee Threshold: SB 1383 amends CFRA to apply to employers with as of January 1, 2021. (Note that there has been no corresponding change to FMLA at the federal level, so many small employers will now be subject to CFRA but not FMLA.)

Family Member Expansion: It expands the definition of a family member to include grandparents, grandchildren or siblings, and expands the leave for bonding to include the child of a domestic partner as of January 1, 2021.

Key Employee Elimination: SB 1383 also deletes the key employee provision as of January 1, 2021.  Under FMLA and the current CFRA provisions, employers were able to deny reinstatement to key employees seeking to return from CFRA leave. The employer must demonstrate that it was not able to wait for the employee on leave to return and must replace the employee on leave with a new employee in that provision.  The provision’s elimination removes employers’ ability to fill positions of critical high-ranking employees during their leave (and the corresponding ability to decline reinstatement).

Both Parents with Same Employer: The fourth major change is to require an employer of both parents of a child to grant up to 12 weeks leave to each parent as of January 1, 2021.

Summary Table of CFRA Before and After SB 1383 Amendments (Effective January 1, 2021)

 New Parent Leave Act Repealed as Redundant

The New Parent Leave Act requires employers of between 20 and 49 employees to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn child, adopted child or foster child.  Its purpose was to make new child bonding leave available to employees who were not eligible for CFRA.

With SB 1383 being signed into law, the New Parent Leave Act becomes redundant and it is repealed effective January 1, 2021.

Employer Action Items

  1. Small employers who will be subject to CFRA January 1 should familiarize themselves with the law’s requirements.
  2. Employers should consider whether any updates are appropriate to their employee handbooks, leave policies, and leave forms to account for the changes to CFRA.
  3. Employers should ensure all personnel in leave administration positions are aware of the updates.

Karen Hooper

About the author

Karen Hooper

VP, Senior Compliance Manager

Karen Hooper, CEBS, CMS, Fellow, is a Vice President and Senior Compliance Manager working closely with the Lead Benefit Counsel in Newfront's Employee Benefits division. She works closely with internal staff and clients regarding compliance issues, providing information, education and training.


The information provided is of a general nature and an educational resource. It is not intended to provide advice or address the situation of any particular individual or entity. Any recipient shall be responsible for the use to which it puts this document. Newfront shall have no liability for the information provided. While care has been taken to produce this document, Newfront does not warrant, represent or guarantee the completeness, accuracy, adequacy, or fitness with respect to the information contained in this document. The information provided does not reflect new circumstances, or additional regulatory and legal changes. The issues addressed may have legal, financial, and health implications, and we recommend you speak to your legal, financial, and health advisors before acting on any of the information provided.

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