Back-to-back pregnancies: What happens to my maternity leave?

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, what better topic to cover than IRISH TWINS!

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Here’s the scenario….what happens when a California mother delivers two babies within the same year (otherwise known as Irish Twins!)? What leave laws will the mother be entitled to in this situation? (Shout out to the reader who posted this question!)

First off, Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) is per pregnancy. So, no matter how soon you become pregnant with Baby #2 you will be fully entitled to PDL. PDL provides up to 17.3 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for the purpose of pregnancy, childbirth, and other related conditions. As emphasized in my How To Milk Your Benefits post, you don’t get all 17.3 weeks of PDL. The actual duration of your leave is for however long your doctor certifies your disability. The “standard” duration of disability for pregnancy and childbirth is 4 weeks before the estimated due date and 6 weeks after birth for a vaginal delivery or 8 weeks after for a c-section. If you experience any complications during your pregnancy and/or after birth, your doctor can certify an extension(s) beyond the “standard” duration.

Okay, so far pretty straight forward….you get PDL because you’re pregnant again. Woot woot! But, now the trick(ier) part. Assuming you work for a CFRA-eligible employer, the big question here is whether you would be eligible for CFRA bonding leave for Baby #2. The answer to this depends on how your employer resets the clock on CFRA.

As a reminder, the eligibility requirements for CFRA are as follows:

  • Must work for an employer with 20+ employees within a 75 mile radius.
  • Have worked for the employer for at least one year
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours within the past year

Also – as a reminder – a CFRA-eligible employee will get an additional 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for the purpose of bonding with baby following PDL.

There are 4 different ways an employer can reset the clock on CFRA. Employers may select any of the following methods, but the method must be applied consistently and uniformly for all employees.

1. The Calendar Year 
Pretty self-explanatory here. You get 12 weeks of CFRA each calendar year (January 1 through December 31).

2. Any Fixed 12-Months
Also pretty self-explanatory. You get 12 weeks of CFRA each fixed year (i.e fiscal year, employment anniversary date, etc).

3. The 12-Month Measured Forward
The 12-month period is measured forward from the first date an employee takes CFRA. Then, the next 12-month period would begin the first time CFRA leave is taken after completion of the prior 12-month period. Sounds complicated, but it’s not….

Example: If you took CFRA leave for Baby #1 on June 1, 2017, then the next 12-week period would begin on June 1, 2018.

4. The “Rolling” 12-Month Period Measured Backward.
This is the most complicated method used. The 12-month period is measured backward from the date an employee uses any CFRA leave. Under the “rolling” 12-month period, each time an employee takes CFRA, the remaining leave entitlement would be the balance of the 12 weeks which has not been used during the immediately preceding 12 months. Ummm, huhhhh? 

Example: You request to take CFRA leave for Baby #2 on June 1, 2018. Your employer looks back 12 months from June 2, 2017 through June 1, 2018 to see if any CFRA has been taken. As long as you haven’t used any CFRA time during that period, you would be eligible for the full 12 weeks of CFRA on June 1, 2018. If you’ve used some CFRA during that time, you would be eligible for just the remaining balance.

Also – super important – regardless of the method used, you still need to meet the 1,250 hours worked requirement again prior to the start of your leave. If you’re taking CFRA leave immediately following PDL, the 1,250 hours must be met preceding your PDL; and if there’s a gap between PDL and CFRA, then the 1,250 hours must be met immediately preceding your CFRA leave.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you might have recently taken a CFRA leave of absence – whether it be because you were bonding with a baby or you were using CFRA to care for a spouse, parent or ill child – check with your employer to see which method they use.

Note, PDL and CFRA provide unpaid job protection. To find out more about wage replacement programs – SDI and PFL – check out this post.

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