Expanding paid family leave

Gov. Gavin Newsom with first partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and their youngest son, Dutch, during the annual Christmas tree lighting at the Capitol on December 15, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

By Laurel Rosenhall


SB 1383 would ensure that more Californians can return to their jobs after taking paid family leave. It requires companies with at least five employees to guarantee workers their jobs back after they take leave to care for a new baby or sick loved one. Right now that guarantee exists only for people who work for larger companies, so this bill would extend family leave job protections to an additional roughly 6 million Californians.


Newsom has credited his wife, feminist filmmaker Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and his chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, as key influences urging him to beef up paid family leave so that more people can take care of family needs and still hold onto their jobs.  Advocates for women, children, families and workers — including several powerful labor unions — are also pushing for the bill by Democratic state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara. 


The California Chamber of Commerce and numerous other trade groups representing employers contend that the proposed job protections are too onerous on small businesses and could expose companies to more lawsuits from aggrieved workers. Republicans and moderate Democrats sided with them and largely voted against the bill as it moved through the Legislature. 


Though almost all workers pay into California’s paid family leave program through a 1% deduction on their paychecks, many workers don’t take the leave because they risk losing their jobs if they do. This bill aims to make it easier for workers to take time off that they’re essentially already paying for. It also amounts to a key piece of what Newsom calls his “parents’ agenda.” He has said he wants to eventually ensure that every baby born in California is cared for by a family member for the first six months of life. Expanding job protections during family leave is critical to that vision.


Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 17, along with this prepared statement: “Californians deserve to be able to take time off to care for themselves or a sick family member without fearing they’ll lose their job. The COVID-19 pandemic has only further revealed the need for a family leave policy that truly serves families and workers, especially those who keep our economy running. This bill will ensure almost all Californians can access the time off they need to keep themselves and their communities healthy.”