Parental Leave Under Guild Contracts
Last updated: April 2023
Film/TV/Streaming contracts: the Minimum Basic Agreement
In the 2017 MBA, the Writers Guild negotiated Article 68, for the first time guaranteeing writers the right to take up to eight weeks of unpaid parental leave. In 2020, we built on that achievement and added MBA Article 71, giving writers another first: paid benefits through a portable Paid Parental Leave (PPL) fund.
NEW PORTABLE PAID PARENTAL LEAVE BENEFIT
Starting May 2, 2021, the PPL benefit will be available to Health Fund participants who work under the MBA or other agreements under which the employer is required to pay these contributions; whose children are born, adopted, fostered, or placed with them for adoption on or after May 2, 2021; and who are eligible for Writers Guild health insurance at the time of birth, adoption, fostering, or placement for adoption.
The benefit is $2,000 per week for up to eight weeks. The weeks need not be taken consecutively and the benefit is available for a 12-month window from the date of birth, adoption or placement. If both parents are WGA writers who are eligible for Writers Guild health coverage at the time of birth, adoption, fostering, or placement for adoption, then each is separately eligible for the paid parental leave benefit.
In order to receive PPL benefits, participants must not work for an employer during the period for which the PPL is taken. A residual, production bonus, or other similar deferred payment received during the benefit period will not interfere with eligibility.
Members who anticipate they will need and be eligible for this benefit should contact the Health Fund at (818) 846-1015 (toll-free: (800) 227-7863) or via email.
If you have any questions, please consult the Fund’s PPL Guide (external – opens in a new window) or contact the Fund at the number or email listed above.
PARENTAL LEAVE UNDER ARTICLE 68 OF THE MBA
In 2017, the Writers Guild negotiated a new provision—Article 68 of the 2017 MBA—giving writers and writer-producers employed on the staff of an episodic series or serial the right to take up to eight weeks of leave to care for a new child. Guild members advocated for this leave as necessary to protect their writing careers at a point in their lives when they needed time with their families. The need to provide leave rights under the MBA was particularly acute because laws that protect workers in many other sectors of the economy frequently do not apply to writers due to the seasonal or intermittent nature of their employment.
The new Article 68 entitles qualified writers on television and new media series to take up to eight weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn child, newly adopted child, or foster child. The leave must be taken within a year of the birth, adoption, or placement of the child.
Under the provision, writers must request leave at least 30 days in advance, unless such notice is impracticable, in which case the writer should make the request within a reasonable time. The Company must reinstate the writer to his or her original position on the series, provided the position continues to exist upon conclusion of the leave. All of these new rights are enforceable by the Guild through the arbitration provisions in the MBA.
If you have questions or issues related to parental leave, or other rights of new parents, contact the Guild’s Legal Department at (212) 767-7844.
Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News and Online Media contracts
Many of the Guild’s Broadcast/Cable/Streaming News and Online Media contracts include provisions establishing the right to parental leave for covered employees. In contracts without explicit mention of parental leave, the issue may be addressed less directly, through provisions that product employee benefits more broadly. If you work in New York, you are also protected by the New York Paid Family Leave law addressed below.
Statutory leave rights: Paid & Unpaid
In addition to the new parental leave provisions in the MBA and in staff CBAs, some writers may be entitled to leave–both paid and unpaid–under an assortment of state and federal statutes. Leave periods under these laws run concurrently with the MBA- or CBA-protected leave, and each law has different requirements for eligibility. The primary statutes that may be of use to writers are the following:
Federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a newborn baby or with an adopted or foster child. It can also be taken for an employee’s serious health condition or to care for a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner with a serious health condition. This right to leave applies if the employer has at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius of the work site, the employee has worked for the employer for the last 12 months, and the employee has worked for at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.
New York Paid Family Leave Law
New York State’s Paid Family Leave law is the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive Paid Family Leave policy. As of January 1, 2018, most employees who work in New York State for private employers are eligible to take Paid Family Leave. New York’s Paid Family Leave provides job-protected, paid time off so you can bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child; care for a close relative with a serious health condition; or assist loved ones when a family member is deployed abroad on active military service.
You can continue your health insurance while on leave and are guaranteed the same or a comparable job after your leave ends. If you contribute to the cost of your health insurance, you must continue to pay your portion of the premium cost while on Paid Family Leave.
Paid Family Leave benefits phase in over four years. During 2018, you can take up to eight weeks of Paid Family Leave and receive 50% of your average weekly wage (AWW), capped at 50% of the New York State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW). Your AWW is the average of your last eight weeks of pay prior to starting Paid Family Leave. The SAWW is updated annually. For more information on benefits, visit the New York Paid Family Leave website (external – opens in a new window).
Paid Family Leave does not apply to pregnancy related conditions, which are covered under a separate law (outlined below).
New York Pregnancy Disability Laws
Employees who work in New York State may be eligible for both Paid Family Leave and disability benefits, although they may not be taken simultaneously.
If you are disabled due to pregnancy, you may be entitled to up to 26 weeks of disability benefits. You will need to submit a medical report completed by a doctor or certified nurse midwife stating your disability is due to pregnancy. The medical report should describe specific pregnancy complications, rather than just general prognosis, if your disability:
- started more than four weeks before the anticipated birth date; OR
- lasts more than four to six weeks after the actual birth date
Disability benefits are cash only benefits. Cash benefits are 50 percent of your average weekly wage for the last eight weeks worked, but no more than the maximum benefit allowed, currently $170 per week.
Visit the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board website (external – opens in a new window) for more information.
Differences between Disability Benefits and Paid Family Leave
- Only the birth mother is eligible for disability leave for the period immediately after the birth of a child.
- Paid family leave begins after the birth and is not available for prenatal conditions.
- A parent may take paid family leave during the first 12 months following the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child.
- You cannot collect disability benefits and paid family leave benefits at the same time.
- Your combined total disability leave and paid family leave in any 52 week period may not exceed 26 weeks.
Other State Laws
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA):
Writers employed in California may also be covered by CFRA, which provides leave rights similar to the FMLA and has the same qualification requirements. CFRA specifically includes same-sex domestic partners as parents. It does not apply to pregnancy related conditions, which are covered under a separate law, outlined below.
- California Pregnancy Disability Law (PDL):
PDL allows up to four months of job protected leave to persons disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. The period of job projection is determined by the amount of time a health care provider certifies a disability. Generally, health care providers certify a pregnant woman disabled four weeks before childbirth and six weeks after vaginal delivery or eight weeks after caesarian section. This law applies if the employer has at least five employees.
Many other states have their own leave laws. Call the Guild’s Legal Department if you have questions about a specific state’s laws.
New York law provides a number of other workplace protections related to pregnancy and childcare.
Accommodation During Pregnancy
New York State law requires employers with five or more employees to provide pregnant workers reasonable accommodations, such as a chair, help with heavy lifting, and frequent bathroom breaks. Employers are also prohibited from forcing a pregnant workers to take leave when they have not requested it. New York City Human Rights Law also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, and protects pregnant workers from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy.
Under New York labor law, you have the right to take reasonable unpaid break time or to use paid break time or meal time each day, so that you can pump breast milk at work. New York labor law also requires that employers provide you with a private room or other location close to your work area where you can pump breast milk. This room or location cannot be a bathroom or toilet stall.
Parental leave, nondiscrimination toward pregnant workers, and workplace accommodations for pregnancy-related conditions are all protected rights under New York City, New York State, and federal laws.
In addition, most Guild contracts include some degree of protection of parental leave and related benefits.