California Paid Family Leave Law

As of July 2004, California became the first state in the country to offer a comprehensive paid family leave program. The program allows workers to receive up to six weeks per year of partial wage replacement for leave taken to care for a seriously ill family member (child, spouse, parent, or domestic partner); to care for a newborn child; or to bond with a child after adoption or foster-care placement. Paid leave can be taken all at one time, or intermittently – i.e., in hourly, daily, or weekly increments.

The program, which is funded through the State Disability Insurance (SDI) system, is funded entirely by employee contributions. While the previously existing SDI benefit provides partial wage replacement to individuals who cannot work because of their own illness or injury, the new paid family leave benefit provides partial wage replacement to individuals who must take time off from work to care for a seriously ill family member or new child. Workers who take leave under the paid family leave program receive up to 55% of their wages, subject to a statutory cap. Only workers who pay into the SDI system -- i.e., almost all private sector employees and some public sector employees -- are eligible for paid leave. The paid family leave law does not require an employee to work a minimum number of hours or days before becoming eligible for paid family leave benefits.

Paid family leave insurance is not a form of job protection. In other words, the program does not guarantee an employee the right to take leave, nor does it require an employer to hold an employee’s job open while the employee is on leave. Paid family leave does, however, run concurrently with leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), both of which provide job protection. In general, employers with 50 or more employees are covered by the FMLA and CFRA. The paid family leave law applies to all employees, regardless of employer size.

The paid family leave law requires a one-week waiting period. In other words, an employee must be out of work at least eight days in order to receive paid family leave benefits. In addition, an employer may require an employee to use up to two weeks of vacation leave (but not sick leave) before the employee can receive the benefit. Finally, in the case of an individual taking leave to care for a sick family member, if another family member is able, available, and willing to provide care to the seriously ill family member, the individual is not eligible for the paid family leave benefit.

Further Information

Documents prepared by Workplace Flexibility 2010: