California Paid Family Leave Benefits Goes Into Effect July 1

California extends paid family leave from 6 to 8 weeks beginning July 1, 2020

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New parents in California and those taking time off to care for a seriously ill family member will get 2 additional weeks of paid family leave benefits starting July 1. The new law was signed by Governor Gavin Newson last summer, and it extends benefits from 6 to 8 weeks.

“This legislation represents an initial step forward by increasing paid family leave for parents to bond with their new child from 6 weeks to 8 weeks, thereby providing families up to one additional month to care for and bond with their newborn or newly adopted child,” California lawmakers noted in the proposed legislation.

The program currently provides 6 weeks of leave to parents of newborns and those who have recently adopted or received a foster care placement, as well as those caring for a sick loved one 60% to 70% of their salary, based on income. The paid leave benefits provide families with about 3 months of paid leave when used consecutively. Under the expansion of benefits, if both parents take full advantage of the new benefit, they will have a combined 4 months of leave.

Workers who will experience a loss of wages when they need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new child entering the family through birth, adoption, or foster care placement, can apply for the paid family leave benefits.

Paid family leave under the program is not available when an employee takes leave for his or her own illness.

Citizenship and immigration status do not affect eligibility.

There is no requirement that employees who request paid family leave benefits work for an employer of a certain size and a worker’s length of time on the job does not affect eligibility.

The wage replacement benefit is in addition to the 6 weeks of paid disability leave for California’s new mothers who give birth.

California officials say more than 18 million California workers are covered by the paid family leave program and that it’s paid for by California workers who have paid State Disability Insurance (SDI) taxes in the past five to 18 months. California employees must have earned $300 or more in wages during a 12-month base period preceding the claim for benefits to meet the requirements and the wages must have been subject to withholding under the state’s disability insurance program.

Workers who will experience a loss of wages when they need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new child entering the family through birth, adoption, or foster care placement, can apply for the paid family leave benefits.

When the proposal to increase the benefits was submitted last year, Newsom said he would pay for the extra 2 weeks by reducing the minimum reserve in the Disability Insurance Fund to 15% starting July 1, 2019, so that the state would be able to pay for the benefit without any new taxes or impact to the overall budget, CBS13 reported.

Unprotected job leave

Unlike the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and some of California’s other leave laws such as the California Family Rights Act and the New Parent Leave Act, the paid family leave benefits program does not provide job protection, which means that an employer does not have to guarantee that a worker’s job or a similar position will be available for them upon their return from an absence under the wage replacement plan.

However, California’s paid family leave program can provide wage replacement under a law that provides job-protected leave such as the FMLA, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave, so that eligible employees can ask for an absence under one of those laws and also apply for the wage replacement offered through the state’s paid family leave benefits program and obtain a guarantee of job protection.

6 months of paid family leave

Newsom has said his goal is to provide 6 months of paid family leave for 2 parents to bond with a new child and that the expansion of benefits has moved the goal two-thirds towards that objective.

California legislators noted in the bill that “public health shows that providing up to 6 months of paid parental leave leads to positive health and educational outcomes for children.”

Newsom has said his goal is to provide 6 months of paid family leave for 2 parents to bond with a new child and that the expansion of benefits has moved the goal two-thirds towards that objective.

Legislators also said baby’s interactions with parents in the very first months of the infant’s life is critical to help the baby’s brain develop, and bonding with a newly adopted baby has also demonstrated lasting long-term mental health benefits.

In recent years, the program has been expanded to include a wider range of family members, eliminate a waiting period, and increase the amount paid to workers.

Paid family leave in other states

Eight states – California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Oregon – as well as the District of Columbia offer paid family leave as of April 2020, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

California was the first state to pass a paid family leave law in 2002, NCSL has reported.

Legal experts have said that, at 6 weeks, California’s paid family leave benefit was shorter than most other states, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. For example:

  • Washington, D.C., allows 6 weeks for family care or 8 weeks for bonding (8 weeks aggregated)
  • Massachusetts allows 12 weeks
  • New Jersey allows 6 weeks (which increases to 12 weeks beginning July 1, 2020)
  • New York allows 10 weeks (which increases to 12 weeks in 2021)
  • Rhode Island allows 4 weeks
  • Connecticut allows 12 weeks
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