School children are back at school following winter break, and that may mean employee requests for time off for parent-teacher conferences, school assemblies, and more. While less known, California law has a collection of statutes affording parents protected time off. One of those protections is California Labor Code section 230.8, which provides parents, and other parental figures, with protected time off to attend to child related activities.

Planned and Foreseeable Absences

Under California Labor Code section 230.8, parents of covered employers may take up to 40 hours per year of job-protected time off to find, enroll, or reenroll their children in school or with a licensed child care provider, or to participate in activities of the school or child care provider. To exercise their protected time off, parents must provide their employer with reasonable notice before any planned absence. Additionally, any time off incident to school or child care enrollment or child related activities coordinated by the school or child care provider must not exceed eight (8) hours in any calendar month of the year. Although the code leaves child related school and care activities undefined, its broad enough to include activities such as field trips, parent-teacher conferences, and school assemblies.

Emergency Absences

Parents may also use the annual 40 hours of job-protected leave for unplanned absences resulting from “emergency” situations. A child care provider or school emergency is one in which the child cannot stay in the care of the school or child care provider because:

  • the school or child care provider has unexpectedly requested that the child be picked up
  • behavioral or discipline problems
  • unexpected closure or unavailability of the school or child care provider
  • natural disasters such as fire, earthquake, or flood.

Parents must still notify their employers of their unplanned absence as soon as practicable.

Covered Employers and Employees

The provision applies to employers who employ 25 or more people at a single location. Parents, for purposes of section 230.8, includes a natural parent, guardian, stepparent, foster parent, or grandparent of a child of the age to attend kindergarten or grades 1 through 12 or a licensed child care provider—i.e., non-adult children.

Employer Verification and Intersection with Other Employer Policies

An employer may request that the employee obtain documentation from the school or child care provider verifying that the employee engaged in one of the specified child related activities on a particular date and time.

The employee may use his or her existing vacation for any planned time off related to enrollment or school and child care organized activities, but the employer need not independently offer paid time off to accommodate absences under section 230.8.