California Paid Family Leave

For workers in the state, knowledge of California paid family leave laws is essential to allocating proper time to your family, such as needing time off of work to help sick relatives or tend to your newborn, without the financial burden of taking time off work. Here is everything you need to know about California Paid Family Leave.

California Paid Family Leave is when Californian workers do not attend work in order to make extra time for themselves and their family. A lot of employees find it hard to make ends meet simply by taking time off, which is why employers often offer paid time off. That way, workers can still spend time with their families without taking a pay cut.

Paid Family Leave was first introduced in California in 2002 and went into effect July of 2004. This program offers income while workers take time off to take care of a family member or spend time with a new child. To be eligible, a California worker has to help with the California State Disability Insurance fund. This grants the worker six weeks of about 55% pay a year without having to go to work. Time off is meant to be used for:

  • Spending time with a newborn or new adoptee

  • Taking care of a seriously sick relative

  • Taking care of yourself when you're dangerously ill

  • Any qualifying need related to a family member's military service for FMLA-eligible employees only

Governor Jerry Brown expanded the California Paid Family Leave law to assist impoverished people and offer greater benefits to all. Both men and women are eligible, and usually qualify for 55% of their pay, but lower income people near minimum wage can be entitled to 70% of their salary while on leave thanks to Gov. Brown's expansion. The expansion also qualifies anyone making under $108,000 who make too much for the 70% are eligible for 60%. Brown's expansion added caring for a sick family member as a valid reason for Paid Family Leave. This new expansion will take effect in 2018.

The inequality present in California is real, and they're trying to compensate for that. Paid Family Leave greatly improves the lives of workers and their families. Paid parental leave was already common in most countries, so California sought to mimic that. They were pioneers among the rest of the country regarding this kind of law. Not even 1% of income is withheld for most Californian workers to help with this similar to income taxes funding social security. Employees can draw from this money during their Paid Family Leave. New parents are eligible for six weeks off and more than half what they make a week. There is currently a 55% cap that changes with inflation. Paid family leave had a positive effect on California since its inception over a decade ago. There is a complicated web of medical leave and family leave laws in California, but employees just need to have Paid Family Leave insurance.

How it Works

The California State Disability Insurance fund helps you when both you are sick or disabled and when you need to take care of a sick or disabled family member. It also applies to new parents. While employees are generally entitled to 55% of their wages, the benefit amount caps at $987 a week. The six weeks workers get off for Paid Family Leave don't have to be taken consecutively. It can be taken on a weekly, daily, or even hourly basis. However, employees have to wait seven days unpaid to get benefits. Any employee with disability insurance must do this. Paid Family Leave is only available to employees working at the same place for at least a year and for at least 1,250 hours in that year. The place the employee works must also have at least 50 other employees within 75 miles.

Medical Certification

If an employee is taking Paid Family Leave for their own illness, their employer may need to see medical certification. Problems tend to arise when employees don't know the difference between a serious health condition and a common ailment.

PFL in Action

For some, half of their wages during time off just isn't enough, especially if they're living paycheck to paycheck. Ninety percent of employees wanting PFL are new parents wanting to spend time with the newborn while 10% want to take care of an ill family member. The Employment Development Department is in charge of the program, and withheld money from employee paychecks provide the funding. About $587 million will go into these improved benefits in 2021 while will require more workers to pay. That is the state's responsibility. California covers approximately 13.1 million workers, and even more will be in the future as the program continues to expand. The state is making history with its progress with the increased happiness of employees, but there has been opposition.

Some businesses opposed the law saying that it would make companies stop offering as many jobs and that small businesses wouldn't be able to handle it. However, California companies of all sizes were evaluated after five years, and they didn't implode. Over 90% of the companies assessed either claimed a neutral or positive impact. Employee morale was up, along with productivity. Families in general reported increased happiness as they could see their loved ones more often. More parents are taking paternity and maternity leave for their newborns, but the law still requires sacrifice.

Employees don't get their entire week's pay during their time off, and that can be a deal breaker for lower income people. A third of surveyed Californians didn't take Paid Family Leave because they couldn't afford it while more than half weren't even aware that it was a law.

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