SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – California residents can take up to six weeks of paid family leave per year to care for a seriously-ill relative, even those residing abroad, through the state’s Employment Development Department.
California’s Paid Family Leave Act allows workers to receive 60 to 70 percent of their salaries – the highest in the nation – under the provisions of the law. Benefits range from a minimum of $50 to a maximum of $1,216 per week, based on wages.
“You can use paid family leave even if you’re caring for a parent overseas as long as you have paid into the system. This is your money,” Kacie Finnicum, a representative for the Employment Development Department, told reporters at a Feb. 1 briefing organized by Ethnic Media Services.
The briefing was moderated by Sandy Close, director of the new news agency.
Most workers in California have paid into the system via a payroll tax with the code CASDI. “It’s a benefit you have already paid for,” said Finnicum to a roomful of Indian American reporters and other ethnic media at EDD’s offices in downtown San Francisco. She noted that 18 million employees in the state are eligible for the benefit.
Workers in San Francisco receive an additional benefit: an employer must make up the remaining 30 percent, so that the employee gets 100 percent of his salary. Workers in other counties can request their employers to make up the 30 percent through sick or vacation leave so that 100 percent of the paycheck is received.
Seriously-ill family members can include a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. To qualify for paid family leave benefits, the caregiver must obtain certification from the care recipient as well as medical certification from the patient’s physician or health care practitioner.
A serious health condition is defined as a physical or mental illness or injury which requires at-home care, or in-patient care in a hospital, hospice or residential care facility. It is also defined as someone needing continuing treatment from a physician or health care practitioner.
Physicians practicing outside the U.S. must meet the qualification standards of the EDD in order to provide certification for a caregiver who wants to use paid family leave benefits.
Starting Jan. 1, workers in California can receive benefits from the first day of leave, eliminating the one-week period previously mandated. Moreover, paid family leave need not be taken in one chunk, but can be broken up into several shorter leaves over the course of the year.
Julia Parrish, a staff attorney with the organization Legal Aid at Work, noted that caregivers can use paid family leave even just to take a seriously-ill relative to the doctor once a week. Caregivers make up just 10 percent of the claims to the EDD, said Parrish, noting that the benefit is under-utilized.
More information about paid family leave for caregivers is available here: http://edd.ca.gov/Disability/PFL_Caregivers.htm
Paid family leave can also be used by parents to bond with newborn children, and adoptive or foster parents. A husband and wife or registered domestic partners are each entitled to six weeks of paid family leave after a new child comes into the family.
“Babies come out of the womb, they need to be loved and nurtured. You can’t do that if you have to rush off to work,” said Julia Frudden, a spokesperson for the Child Care Law Center, at the briefing. Frudden noted that care-giving during the first nine months involves check-ups, immunizations, and – critically – breast-feeding. Infant mortality and post-partum depression both decrease when a mother is allowed to properly bond with her newborn, she said, noting that fathers who are at home with their infants spend more overall time with their children throughout their growth.
More than 70 percent of small business owners support paid family leave because workers are more productive and morale is higher, noted Frudden. Employers with more than 20 workers are required to keep their employee’s job in place while she is out for bonding. Job protection for caregivers is only available at companies with more than 50 employees, she said, noting however that federal laws may protect the employee.
“People are paying into the program but not using it,” said Frudden, noting that there is a lack of awareness about the benefit in immigrant communities and among people of color. “Our babies are less healthy as a result,” she stated.
More information about paid family leave for new parents is available here: