California HR

Brand-New Employees Wanting Family Leave?

Today, another question from the CED mailbag: What to do when a brand-new employee wants to take family leave? Our answer below, along with a special deal on a resource that no California employer should be without.

Yesterday, we looked at the question of severance pay. Today, another question from the CED mailbag:

What happens when a brand-new employee comes in and wants to take family leave after having been with our company for only four weeks? Are there general guidelines? We have a new employee who’s been requesting a lot of time off here and there to help out with his wife’s pregnancy, but he’s only just started working here. (Note that we’re a small employer and not covered by FMLA/CFRA.)

Our answer:

A small employer not required to comply with FMLA or CFRA that elects to offer medical leave can set, according to its own policy, when an employee begins to accrue paid medical leave benefits.

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For example, many companies do not permit new employees to begin to accrue benefits until after a probationary period expires (this waiting period can be applied to PTO benefits as well). If an employer implements such a policy, the policy can apply only to new employees hired after the date that the policy is implemented.

For current employees, once an employee does begin to accrue paid medical leave and PTO benefits, the benefits accrue as labor is performed. Thus, if an employee earns one week (40 hours) of paid medical leave benefits in a year, those benefits are earned at a rate of 0.769 hours per week (40 hours per year divided by 52 weeks). An employee who has been employed for four weeks would therefore be entitled to 3.076 hours of paid medical leave.

While your policy does not state that paid medical leave can be used to care for a family member, under California’s KinCare law, an employee is entitled to use 50 percent of his or her PTO benefits to care for a family member.

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An employee who earns 10 days (80 hours) of PTO per year would accrue 1.54 hours of PTO benefits per week, half of which the employee can use to care for a spouse or other family member. So, for a four-week period, that employee would earn 6.16 hours of PTO, and 3.08 of those hours could be used to care for a spouse or other family member.

(Note that the rules, and this analysis, would be different for a company covered by FMLA/CFRA).

Questions about employee leaves can trip up even the most experienced HR professional. Wage/hour is the same way, particularly in light of the state’s confusing (and still-unsettled) rules on meal and rest breaks.

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