HomeSpecial ReportsCalifornia Legislature Seeks Maternity Leave for School Employees

California Legislature Seeks Maternity Leave for School Employees

Where allowed, one of the selling points for becoming a school bus driver is that the employee’s young children can ride in the bus during the trip to and from school. With that courtesy becoming increasingly obsolete, districts must now also consider paid maternity leave, something that’s historically not offered for district employees.

A recent study by the National Council on Teacher Quality found that only 18 percent of school districts sampled offer paid parental leave for teachers, beyond earned sick days. The amount of leave also varies, ranging from one day to five months, with most districts offering fewer than 31 days.

According to a CBS News article, the absence of parental leave for teachers makes it difficult for them to start families. In fact, only nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia guarantee some form of paid parental leave for public school teachers.

California is one state actively trying to change that. An assembly bill introduced in February looks to give a public school employee, “who is required to be absent from duty because the employee is experiencing or has experienced pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from those conditions,” a leave of absence.

The bill states that the leave would be with full pay, subject to a maximum of 14 weeks.

“A leave of absence taken under this section shall not be deducted from any other leaves of absence available to the employee pursuant to state or federal regulations or laws,” the bill continues. “The paid leave may begin before and continue after childbirth if the employee is actually disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or related medical conditions.”

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, educators qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave and have a job waiting for them when they return. However, many employees can’t afford to go without paycheck for any amount of time. The National Council on Teacher Quality report states that employees receive on average 10 to 14 days of sick leave each year. But if employees rely on that when having a baby, it adds, sick time is exhausted for the remainder of the year.

Bruce Berry, director of transportation for Black River Local Schools, said per Ohio law, public schools are entitled to 15 days paid sick leave and three personal days every school year.

 

Personal leave is “use it or lose it.” However, he said, Black River, bargained with the Union so that unused personal leave that year is converted to sick leave. Sick leave accumulates and can also transfer with the employee if they change employment with another school district or public entity in Ohio.

 

He explained that following the birth of a child, sick leave may be used, and employees can be paid up to 12 weeks (if they have the sick leave available) that they are on FMLA. Black River allows employees to accumulate up to 350 days of sick leave. Berry confirmed that the district does not offer a separate paid maternity leave.

Elk Grove Unified School District recognized this issue and offered its own Paid Pregnancy Disability Leave. Amreek Singh, the chief human resources officer for the district. told School Transportation News, that the plan was part of the district’s collective bargaining agreement that was signed a couple of years ago. The leave is the same for bus drivers as it is for teachers.

Singh explained the desire to create the leave policy came after looking at the issue through an equity-based lens. He said district officials realized that women who got pregnant and had a child are “penalized” because they had to use their sick leave to stay in paid status, whereas men didn’t have to do that.

“From an equity perspective, they cannot work because they got pregnant. So, what we did is we negotiated [with union representatives] 20 days of Paid Pregnancy Disability Leave that is on top of every other types of leave,” he explained, adding that it is only offered to females. “This does not come out of your sick leave. This does not come out of your vacation. This is an additional leave that the district pays for. So, there is a fiscal impact, but the fiscal impact is on the district.”


Related: WATCH: Drivers Recognized at California District
Related: Report Finds Challenges to California Vehicle Electrification Plans
Related: California Governor Signs Bill Requiring Zero-Emissions School Bus Purchases by 2035
Related: Washington Legislature Passes Bill to Outlaw School Bus Trespassing


For transportation employees specifically, the Paid Pregnancy Disability Leave is the same. Full-time employees receive up to 20 workdays of fully paid leave. The pay is pro-rated for part-time employees. The leave can be used for pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth and recovery.

Singh explained the leave has been a big employee hiring and retention benefit. He said that taking pregnancy leave has long had lasting implications on retirement benefits, which is now not a problem. If an employee gets pregnant three times, for example, they are provided 20 days leave for each pregnancy.

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