Bereavement leave protected by California law beginning January 2023

Amendments to the California Family Rights Act and Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act expand employees’ leave rights and take effect Jan. 1, 2023. 

The changes, brought by two pieces of legislation signed into law in September by Gov. Gavin Newsom, require covered employers to provide protected bereavement leave, and they add “designated person” to the list of persons an employee is allowed to take time off to care for under both CFRA and Paid Sick Leave laws.

Up to five days of bereavement leave protected

Many California employers already provide some form of bereavement leave to employees as a benefit, and some California cities and counties enforce local bereavement laws, but bereavement leave will be defined and protected for all covered employees across the state beginning in January. 

Employers with five or more employees will be required by Assembly Bill 1949, which amends the California Family Rights Act, to provide up to five days of bereavement leave to employees for the death of a family member, including a domestic partner or extended family member. 

Employees are eligible for the leave if they have been employed for at least 30 days before their leave begins. Employers cannot lawfully refuse to grant a request for bereavement leave by any eligible employee.

Bereavement leave may be unpaid as specified

Specifically, under the new law:

  • “Family member” means a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner or parent-in-law.
  • Employees are not required to take the bereavement leave on consecutive days.
  • The leave is considered unpaid unless the employer already has a paid bereavement leave policy in place.
  • Employees must complete their leave within three months of the family member’s death.
  • Employees can elect to use accrued vacation, sick time or other paid time for the leave but are not required to do so. 
  • Employers can request documentation of the death of the family member, such as a death certificate or published obituary. 

Employers must maintain the confidentiality of any employee who requests the leave. Dentists may want to create a bereavement policy (CDA members can log in to use CDA’s new sample bereavement policy) or should update their existing policy before the law takes effect and communicate the change to employees. 

CFRA and Paid Sick Leave can be used to care for ‘designated person’ 

California employers with five or more employees are already required under CFRA to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid protected leave to employees who request it to care for a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse or domestic partner with a serious health condition. 

Existing state law also requires employers of every size to provide eligible employees working in California a set amount of paid sick leave to all eligible employees for qualified reasons for themselves or a “family member.” 

Starting Jan. 1, under Assembly Bill 1041, employees can also take protected CFRA leave and Paid Sick Leave to care for a designated person.

Designated person defined differently for CFRA, Paid Sick Leave

For the purpose of CFRA leave, the law defines designated person as “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship,” whereas designated person is completely undefined under the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act for the purpose of Paid Sick Leave. 

Because the law does not explicitly define “designated person” for the purpose of Paid Sick Leave requests, Michelle Coker, CDA’s employment practices analyst, cautions dentist employers to avoid defining designated person in their Paid Sick Leave policy. 

“The law currently leaves definition of the designated person to the employee at the time they request Paid Sick Leave,” Coker says. “The law does not require the designated person to be a blood relative or equivalent family member. Unless the law further defines designated person, employers should allow the employee to define their designated person when they request their Paid Sick Leave or consult with their legal counsel.”

Specifically, the law:

  • Allows the employee to identify the designated person at the time they request CFRA leave or the Paid Sick Leave days.
  • Authorizes the employer to limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period.

The law does not change the amount of allowable leave or other terms of CFRA. 

CDA resources help members with CFRA, Paid Sick Leave 

CDA members can log in to their accounts to access updated resources that explain CFRA and Paid Sick Leave and help dentist employers create related workplace policies. The resources include a new sample bereavement policy, the Small Employer Guide to CFRA, a sample CFRA policy, a Paid Sick Leave FAQ and more. 


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