SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Questions are being raised about California’s plan to allow state workers to bring their infants to work.

Assembly Bill 372 passed the Public Employment and Retirement Committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote, but lawmakers raised several concerns about the bill, including negative reactions, implementation, and parents not using their full medical leave in a rush to get back to work.

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The proposed legislation would allow state employees to bring their infants to work in order to promote parent-infant bonding time and breastfeeding. Babies would need to be between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 months, or until the infant is crawling (whichever is earlier), and get medical clearance from a physician and a surgeon.

Legislative analysis of AB 372 states:

“Providing another opportunity for the parent of a newborn child to bond with the infant is a laudable goal…. this proposal may be viewed as augmenting (existing) programs to permit additional time and opportunity for purposes of bonding. This option may provide a benefit to new parents, new single-parent employees, including those without a network of support, and provide savings to a new parent or parents, when compared to the costs of childcare. Conversely, this proposal may also be viewed as supplanting existing parental leave programs that permit time off and detachment from work to provide dedicated personal time for bonding with a new infant. In addition, this proposal may be viewed as a “slippery slope” that potentially could erode existing parental leave programs by shifting the priority of the state employer and a new parent to, instead of using dedicated personal time off and detachment from work to bond, return to work sooner rather than later, while providing bonding time in the workplace. While permitting an increase in time to bond with a new infant and by permitting an employee to bring an infant to work for these purposes, the employee will continue to be required to satisfactorily perform the duties as prescribed by the employer, which may affect the quality of
parental bonding time with the new infant.”

Several states already have Infants at Work programs- Arizona, Kansas, Nevada, and Washington. However, several of those states do not offer paid family leave, or don’t offer paid family leave to public employees. Currently, the California Family Rights Act allows eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of unpaid protected time to care for a child born to, adopted by, or placed for foster care with an employee. Other laws allow new moms to get time and a private space to pump breast milk.

AB 372 does state parents or caregivers will have sole responsibility for the safety of the infant, but agencies can adopt certain regulations or choose to not participate if the work environment is considered “inappropriate for infants, for safety, health, or other concerns regarding the infant, the adult, or both.”

Additional concerns have been raised about how to minimize disruptions in the workplace.

“However, as a practical matter for implementation and operations, this may present a significant challenge with regard to balancing the interests of
opportunity and rights prescribed by this proposal for a new parent, and the obligation of state agencies and their employees to provide a public service uninterrupted or affected by an infant or infants in the workplace who, naturally, may disrupt the workplace environment.”

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Assemblyman Randy Voepel (R-Santee), the lawmaker behind the proposal, thinks he may have Governor Newsom’s vote since he’s shown an interest in parent-friendly initiatives.

The governor’s office issued a statement earlier this year:

“The Governor believes strongly in supporting family bonding and child development from the cradle all the way to career. This is why two of his earliest policy proposals were around funding early childhood education and expanding paid family leave.

The Governor is also keenly aware that details matter and bills change at every stage of the legislative process.

He’s committed to working with the legislature and making his priorities known, and he carefully reviews all pending legislation (and, of course, every bill that reaches his desk) to ensure they meet the standard of the people of California.”

Babies at work policies are not new. The Parenting in the Workplace Institute says hundreds of companies in the U.S. now allow parents to care for infants on the job.

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If AB 372 is passed and becomes law it would go into effect January 1, 2020 until January 1, 2022.