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EMPLOYMENT NOTES

New Requirement To Pay Health Insurance Premiums During Periods Of California’s Pregnancy Leave

10.13.2011

On October 6, 2011, Governor Brown also signed SB 299, a bill that, in most-important part, amends California’s pregnancy leave statute to require employers to “maintain and pay” for group health insurance during the term of that leave. (Cal. Gov. Code §12945 [leaves for disabilities related to pregnancy, not to exceed 4 months], to be effective January 2012.)

For employers currently subject to family leave (federal or California), paying employees’ insurance premiums during leave won’t be new, but since California employers cannot require employees to take pregnancy leave and California family leave concurrently, the maximum period of the employers’ payments of such premiums will increase from the current 12 weeks of family leave to an additional and potential 4 months for this new pregnancy leave, for a total of at or about 7 months.
 
For employers not currently subject to family leave, but subject to California’s existing pregnancy leave, paying insurance premiums will be new.

The author of the new law has indicated that the requirement to “maintain” insurance means only that existing insurance cannot be discontinued to avoid the law, and “maintain” does not mean that employers who have no group health insurance must purchase such insurance, but such intent does not mean that a court must follow the author’s interpretation.

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