SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Starting January 1, state workers may get to bring their infants to work.

Assembly Bill 372 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.

The program would run from January 1, 2020-January 1, 2022.

The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously on Friday. It previously passed the Assembly, but concerns were raised. They include negative reactions, implementation, and parents not using their full medical leave in a rush to get back to work. Questions also remain about how much the bill would cost taxpayers. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee,

“this bill would result in annual costs across the General Fund and several special funds. The magnitude of these costs is unknown, but potentially significant, and would include (1) infrastructure improvements at state-owned and leased buildings, (2) the California Department of Human Resources developing the program, drafting regulations and providing guidance to other state departments regarding implementation, (3) resolving potential workplace accidents involving infants, and (4) the cashing out of increased vacation balances for civil servants to the extent that they take less vacation time as a result of this bill than would have occurred on the natural.”

The bill now goes to the full Senate for a vote. If it passes Governor Gavin Newsom could sign or veto it.

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 the dedicated time and a private space to pump breast milk.

In Washington, according to the Bill Analysis, 75 infants have successfully “graduated” since the program started in July 2015. In Arizona, the Department of Health Services started an infant at work program in 2016 and posted on its site “our program has hosted close to 200 babies. We’ve witnessed a positive boost to employee morale as our babies and coworkers enjoy having a baby in the office.”

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.”

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.

A similar bill was held on the Senate Appropriation Committee’s suspense file last session.

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