Paid Family Leave: What It Is, Who Can Use It, and How to Apply

 

Today, July 1, 2020, California is officially extending Paid Family Leave benefits from 6 weeks to 8 weeks! Although some improvements are being made to California’s Paid Family Leave laws, many aren’t aware of these benefits or don’t understand how to navigate the complex laws that make up the Paid Family Leave Program.

We are here to help you navigate the process of getting paid leave. We understand how complex and inaccessible California’s paid leave programs are. It’s our mission at the California Work & Family Coalition to raise awareness of paid leave and also to advocate for better paid leave policies that are accessible to everyone and that are easy to understand.  

To celebrate the expansion of weeks, we wanted to create a quick reference guide to help raise awareness of Paid Family Leave and how to access these benefits!

To clarify, we are not the organization where you can apply for paid leave benefits (that’s the Employment Development Department also known as the EDD). 

 

What is Paid Family Leave?

California Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides partial wage replacement benefits to employees who need to take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member (child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner) or to bond with a new child entering the family through birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

 

Who can take Paid Family Leave? Parents or Caregivers?

Both. Paid family leave is not just for people who physically deliver a baby. It’s also for people who want to bond with a new child after adoption or foster care placement. It’s also for people who have to care for a family member with a serious illness. For instance, if your parent is diagnosed with cancer, you can take paid family leave to take care of them. 

 

How long can I take Paid Family Leave?

Starting July 1, 2020, you can take paid family leave for up to 8 weeks.

 

Is the Paid Family Leave Program a “government handout”?

No. The Paid Family Leave program is NOT a “government handout.” This program is employee-funded (yes, you’re paying for it!) through a state-mandated tax that you can find on your paystubs next to “CA SDI,” which stands for California State Disability Insurance.

 

Can I be fired for taking Paid Family Leave?

It depends on how many employees work at the business you work for. Paid Family Leave does not provide job protection, only partial wage replacement; however, your job may be protected through other federal or state laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), or the New Parent Leave Act (NPLA).

In order to qualify for job protection under FMLA, CFRA or NPLA you must:

  • Have worked for your employer for at least 1 year
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year
  • Work for an employer with at least 50 employees in a 75 mile radius if you are taking leave to care for a seriously ill family member
  • Work for an employer with at least 20 employees in a 20 mile radius if you are taking leave to bond with a new child

Right now, the California Work & Family Coalition is advocating for expanded job protection so that all employees can take Paid Family Leave without being fired. The bill that would accomplish this (SB 1383) was amended on Monday, June 29th, to only provide job protection to employees who work at a business with five or more employees. So, unfortunately if your employer employs fewer than 5 people, you won’t have job protection even though you’re mandated to pay into the California State Disability Insurance fund. The Senate will vote on this bill on Thursday, July 2, 2020. 

If you’d like to be updated about policy changes and opportunities to advocate with us, please follow us on social media (we’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) and join our paid leave advocate community at workfamilyca.org/advocate.

For more information about the FMLA, visit the Department of Labor or call them at 1-866-487-2365. For more information about the CFRA, visit the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing or call 1-800-884-1684.

 

Are undocumented workers eligible for Paid Family Leave?

Yes. Paid Family Leave can be taken regardless of immigration status. As long as you are paying into the State Disability Insurance fund (check your pay stubs), you do not need to be a U.S. citizen or have a Social Security number to be eligible for Paid Family Leave. The Employment Development Department will NOT ask for proof of citizenship. 

 

How much of my wages will be replaced when I take paid leave?

If eligible, you can receive about 60 or 70 percent (depending on income) of wages that you earned 5 to 18 months before your claim start date. You will receive this wage replacement for up to eight weeks within any 12-month period. The length of time worked at your current job does not affect your eligibility. 

 

How do I apply for Paid Family Leave to receive these benefits?

To receive benefits, you must:

  • File a claim for Paid Family Leave benefits online or by mail with the EDD. Applying online is the fastest way to get your benefits. Go to edd.ca.gov to apply.
  • Have earned at least $300 in wages that are subject to SDI deductions (look for “CA SDI” on your paystubs) during the 12-month base period of your claim.
  • Provide proof of relationship for bonding claims (birth certificate or record, adoption paperwork, etc.). To download the Paid Family Leave bonding claim form in Spanish, click here. For English, it’s easiest to apply online at edd.ca.gov.
  • Provide a medical certification filled out by a doctor or health practitioner for caregiving claims. The EDD has a specific form you need to get filled out. It’s called the Physician/Practitioner’s Certification for care claims. To download the medical certification for caregiving claim form in Spanish, click here. For English, it’s easiest to apply online at edd.ca.gov.

 

A Special note for San Francisco workers

San Francisco workers—your employer may be required to provide supplemental compensation to you if you are receiving Paid Family Leave benefits for bonding with a new child through birth, adoption, or foster care placement. For more information, visit the City and County of San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO).

 

What if I’m wrongfully fired or not able to take the Paid Family Leave I’m eligible for?

Being able to enforce your rights is important. Not all employers are aware of how Paid Family Leave works and some are not supportive of employees taking time off. If you suspect you were wrongfully terminated or disciplined for taking Paid Family Leave, we recommend getting free legal counsel and support from one of our members, Legal Aid At Work

 

Have any questions? We’re here to help!

If you have any questions, please leave a comment on this blog post or email info@workfamilyca.org. We’re here to help you!

 

Subscribe to be notified of our next blog post: State Disability Insurance—a Safety Net When You Have a Serious Illness.

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

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