Ques­tion: How long is mater­ni­ty leave in Cal­i­for­nia? How long do we have to hold a posi­tion for an employ­ee on mater­ni­ty leave?

Answer: It is pos­si­ble for a preg­nant Cal­i­for­nia employ­ee to be out on qual­i­fy­ing leave for up to sev­en months.

Exam­ple:

An employ­ee goes out on Preg­nan­cy Dis­abil­i­ty Leave (PDL) for the max­i­mum term of four months (or 17–1/3 weeks), and her leave under the Fam­i­ly and Med­ical Leave Act (FMLA) runs concurrently.
Once the PDL ends, she is still eli­gi­ble for up to 12 weeks of leave under California’s Fam­i­ly Rights Act (CFRA), which could result in up to sev­en months total away from her job.

If an employ­ee has not yet been employed for at least 12 months, the employ­ee is not eli­gi­ble for FMLA or CFRA; how­ev­er, the employ­ee is eli­gi­ble for the full PDL allo­ca­tion as of her date of hire.

If an employ­ee is out on PDL, FMLA, or CFRA, an employ­er is required to rein­state the employ­ee to her orig­i­nal posi­tion (or a com­pa­ra­ble one) once the leave is com­plete (assum­ing the employ­ee has not exceed the allow­able leave time). While an employ­er may tem­porar­i­ly fill the posi­tion while an employ­ee is on leave, once the leave ends, the employ­ee should be placed into the same posi­tion or one with equiv­a­lent pay, ben­e­fits, senior­i­ty, etc. Gen­er­al­ly, there are very few excep­tions to the rein­state­ment requirement.

If exist­ing employ­ees are fill­ing in while she is out, or if a tem­po­rary employ­ee is hired, it should be made clear to that employ­ee that this is a tem­po­rary sit­u­a­tion and that once the employ­ee returns, there should be no expec­ta­tion that the tem­po­rary arrange­ment continue.

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