Family Values @ Work


October 6, 2011

New common-sense law protects women from losing health care coverage
during pregnancy-disability leave


SAN FRANCISCO–California Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law today that benefits pregnant women, new mothers and their newborns by ensuring continued health care coverage for workers on pregnancy or childbirth-related leave.  Senate Bill 299, sponsored by Senator Noreen Evans, requires employers to continue to provide health coverage for women on maternity leave, closing a gap in the law that put pregnant women and new mothers at risk of losing insurance coverage at the time they need it most.

Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), California Commission on the Status of Women, and the California Work & Family Coalition have been advocating for this legislation.  The law, which will take effect in 2012, has far-reaching benefits, as an estimated 50 percent of California’s workforce does not have guaranteed health care coverage when on leave.

“The passage of this bill is tremendously important for pregnant workers, who unlike me, can now be assured that they will have continued health care while they are on pregnancy disability leave.  I thank Senator Evans, ERA and all those who ultimately supported the bill’s passage,” says Julia Flood, a working mother in San Francisco who has a personal understanding of the importance of this legislation.  Flood approached ERA for assistance because her employer denied her health care coverage when she took maternity leave just prior to the birth of her second child.

Senator Noreen Evans celebrates the passage of SB 299.  She explains, “Meaningful access to leave, including the maintenance of health insurance coverage, is essential to the health and economic security of working women and their families.”  The California Work & Family Coalition led the effort to pass SB 299 over many months. The Coalition notes that:

  • Women make up nearly half of the American workforce.
  • Three in four women entering today’s workforce will become pregnant at least once while employed and they generally stay in the workforce.
  • When forced to pay out-of-pocket costs for health coverage, many women delay or cut short their leave.  Indeed, almost four in five workers report being unable to take leave because they could not afford it.
  • Approximately 20 percent of pregnant women spend a minimum of one week on bed rest during the course of their pregnancy.

Beth McGovern, Legislative Director of the California Commission on the Status of Women applauds Governor Brown’s signature.  “Pregnancy and childbirth can be the most vulnerable time of a woman’s life and the risk of complications during pregnancy or childbirth is a very real one.  Women need access to time off before and after birth without fear of losing their health insurance coverage.  We thank Governor Brown for taking an important step to address this problem.”

Noreen Farrell, Managing Attorney for Equal Rights Advocates said of the bill’s passage:  “It is a great day for women workers.”

Inset logos: ERA, CA Commission on the Status of Women