Parental leave is provided to educators so they can care for their new child.

Many educators will start or add to their families throughout 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

The term “parental leave” includes maternity, paternity and adoption 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 person.

Who qualifies & what are my rights?

Under the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) and the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), mothers and fathers have the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn or a newly adopted baby or foster child provided they have worked at least 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 in blocks of time. You must also provide your employer with 30 days advanced notice of your need for parental leave when your need for the leave is foreseeable.

In addition, the California Education Code entitles all public school and community college employees (classified and certificated), including those not eligible for CFRA and/or FMLA leave, to take 12 weeks of baby bonding leave regardless of how many hours or years you have worked for the district.  There is no 1,250-hour requirement like CFRA.  Public school and community college employees are also entitled under the Education Code to receive differential pay during a baby bonding leave once you have exhausted all available sick leave.  This leave runs concurrently with CFRA leave if you qualify for both.

What are the benefits?

Your employer must maintain your health insurance coverage. They must also continue to allow you to accrue seniority, longevity, and permanent status and receive the 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.

  • Unpaid leave under the CFRA and FMLA run concurrently, meaning you are only entitled to one 12-week unpaid leave, not to a 24-week leave.
  • When you return to work at the conclusion of your leave, the district must reinstate you to the same or an equivalent position.
  • 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 job for you until you choose to return.

Pregnancy-related disability leave

Unpaid leave is available for up to four months to birth mothers who are disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. You do not need to work for a specified length or amount of time to be eligible.  However, your need for pregnancy disability leave must be verified by your physician.   

You can take pregnancy disability leave intermittently as needed. For example, you could take leave during the first trimester for severe morning sickness, in the last trimester for bed rest and following birth for recovery, so long as your physician verifies your need for each period of leave.  Once you are no longer disabled, you are entitled to an additional 12 weeks of parental bonding leave.

Using sick leave

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

  • If you work full time for a school district as a certificated employee, you accrue 10 days of paid sick leave a year (Educ. Code 44978).
  • If you work part-time, you accrue sick leave proportionate to the number of days per week that you work (Educ. Code 44978).

Unused sick leave accumulates from year to year with no cap and can be transferred (provided you have worked for a district for at least a year), if you subsequently accept a certificated position with another school district or community college district (Educ. Code 44979).

Once you have exhausted your sick leave, you can obtain extended sick leave, which is often referred to as differential leave pay, for the remainder of your pregnancy disability leave.