Too Much Leave

“I have an employee on pregnancy/maternity leave but I need to call her back to work because I’m short on help right now. What are my options?”

Your HR Survival Tip


Different leaves of absence have different rules in California. Many of the differences are related to company size but pregnancy leave has very specific rules.


  • When your employee wants to stop working, she must provide you with a doctor’s note stating the date she must stop working and the expected amount of time off. This is considered the disability period because pregnancy is managed the same as other disability leaves. However, pregnancy disability is protected time off in California (meaning you must give her the same job back once she returns to work). The normal time off is 8 weeks and you cannot require your employee to work during this period or there could be legal issues.

Baby Bonding

  • Baby bonding is not always protected time off. In a company with 19 or fewer employees, the company does not have to offer any time off for baby bonding. In fact, if you do offer it, it is actually just a personal leave of absence and is not protected time off.
  • Protected time off for baby bonding is only available if your company has 20 or more employees and your employee is eligible through New Parent Leave or Family Medical Leave. Eligible employees must have been employed for at least 12 months, worked at least 1250 hours during that 12 months, AND are employed at a worksite with at least 20 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. This type of leave can be used by either parent.

A quick reminder here that Paid Family Leave is NOT a leave of absence. It’s merely a badly named plan that provides employees with supplemental pay from the state if the employee should qualify for, or you approve, another leave.

Your Choices

You have no choice about the disability leave. You have no choice about the New Parent Leave or Family Medical Leave. However, only you can approve or deny a personal leave when you have 19 or fewer employees. If your company is under 20 employees, recognize there are too many things that may change and you may need the employee back to work sooner than planned. Therefore, consider waiting to approve baby bonding time until the date is a bit closer.

Baby bonding time can be used anytime within the first year of birth so the employee doesn’t lose that benefit by accommodating you during your emergency. Admittedly, it’s much harder to cut the time short if the possibility hasn’t been discussed in advance. When approving unprotected time off, we recommend you provide the employee something in writing about their time off and retaining the right to shorten their leave (if legally possible) based on business needs. A good employer won’t abuse this right. A good employee may not be happy about changing their plans but is expected to work with you to find some middle ground.

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