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.
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.