Employee Handbook Policy Updates: New California Laws for 2021

As we approach another year, California employers should reexamine their employee handbook to ensure that it is up to date. Unless it was revised recently, it’s most likely outdated. What are the primary revisions that should be made to keep up with the most recent employment laws?

FMLA Obligations

The main change for 2021 is the extension of the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). The CFRA currently varies fundamentally from the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in a few ways, with the end goal that in the event that you have a joined FMLA/CFRA strategy you should split them apart. Further, if you have no FMLA/CFRA strategy since you don’t have 50 workers, you should have a CFRA strategy in the New Year as long as you have at least five employees.

The CFRA will soon apply to smaller employees – five to 49 employees – and there is no prerequisite that any number of employees be within a 75-mile radius. The CFRA still incorporates the prerequisite that an employee have worked for at least twelve months and for 1,250 hours before the beginning of a protected leave.

The CFRA will also allow workers to take leave to care for a broader range of family members than previously permitted. A qualified employee may take CFRA leave for the following reasons:

  • The employee’s own serious health condition.
  • To care for a parent, kid, spouse, sibling, grandparent, grandkid, or enlisted domestic partner with a genuine medical issue.
  • Care for and bonding with a newborn child.
  • Because of a qualifying exigency identified with the covered active duty or call to covered active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or partner in the US Armed Forces.

Employee Handbook California

In addition, under the FMLA, if the two parents work for the same employer, they are simply only entitled for a total number of 12 weeks of leave combined for bonding with a newborn child. Not so under the changed CFRA. Under this new law each parent is qualified for up to 12 weeks each for baby bonding leave. Besides, the CFRA no longer contains a “key employee” exception. These differences between the FMLA and CFRA will require a revision to your handbook.

Break Room Policy

The next policy that needs a revision is your rest break policy. Employees may no longer be prohibited from leaving the premises during their 10-minute rest breaks.

While it very well might be unrealistic for workers to leave the premises and return inside 10 minutes, you may not place any limitations on how employees utilize their time during their rest breaks. If you have an old rest break policy denying workers from leaving (or in any case limiting their activities) during their rest breaks, you should revise it.

Anti-Harassment Policy

You should revise your policy against harassment – and explicitly the means given to employees to complain about harassment in the workplace. You should give a phone “hotline” for grievances if conceivable. In addition, you should also provide an email address to employees to use to report harassment.

The objective is to make it simply for employees to report workplace harassment – particularly with such so many employees working remotely now – so they will effortlessly report it inside. This will increase the odds that the issue can be fixed before it gets under the hands of a lawyer or the EEOC.

Cell Phone Usage

You should have a policy in the employee handbook addressing to phone use. If employees are needed to use their own phones for business purposes, for example, calling clients or customers, giving an account of the status of jobs, etc., and so forth, they should be paid a month to month allowance for the business use of their personal gadget.

If employees are not required to use their own PDAs while at work, you should to have a policy expressing that employees are not authorized to use their own PDAs for any business reason. Bringing in to get a work schedule, for instance, would not comprise business use of a personal phone.


Now is a good time to distribute a new arbitration agreement. Revise it so it prohibits class and collective actions. The “Company” in the arbitration agreement should be defined to include parent, subsidiary and affiliates, as well as current and previous owners, managers, employees, contractors, attorneys, administrators and insurers. This agreement should also state that the company will bear the costs of the arbitration.

Now is the ideal time to pick your New Year’s goals, and one of them should be revising your employee handbook.

Anna Verasai
Anna Versai is a Team Writer at The HR Digest; she covers topics related to Recruitment, Workplace Culture, Interview Tips, Employee Benefits, HR News and HR Leadership. She also writes for Technowize, providing her views on the Upcoming Technology, Product Reviews, and the latest apps and softwares.

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