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California parents need to prepare for parental leave

Few changes affect so many areas of a person's life as having or adopting a baby can. People can prepare for these changes with some advance planning. Many new parents need to secure adequate family leave time from work once their baby arrives. Most mothers, and an increasing number of fathers, will take some time off from work after a new baby arrives. However, before the baby comes, parents should understand their rights to time off under California and federal employment laws.

First, under the Family Medical Leave Act, employees are entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. During this time, employers must allow their employees to return to their positions. However, FMLA only applies to companies with 50 or more employees and only to full time employees that have worked at least 1,250 hours over the twelve months immediately prior to the leave.

While certain standards are required by FMLA and other employment laws, nothing prohibits employers from creating different parental leave policies. Some employers choose to offer paid leave. In fact, about 14 percent of fathers and 58 percent of mothers have some paid parental leave after the birth of a child. However, it is less common for parents to receive pay for their entire leave -- only about nine percent of employers offer full pay leave benefits.

It is important for California parents to use their pregnancy to learn what their company offers to new parents. If the leave time is less than what they are expecting, it can be worthwhile to try and negotiate with employers. Some employers may be willing to craft individual plans that work for today's families. By educating themselves and planning ahead, parents can avoid any hassle once their new baby arrives.

Source: Harvard Business Review, "How to Negotiate Your Parental Leave," Amy Gallo, Oct. 25, 2012

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