California Paid Family Leave: Taking Time Off to Care for Loved Ones
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Employees who need time off from work to care for a new baby (adopted and foster babies included) or a sick relative (parent, child, spouse, or registered domestic partner) can continue to receive a paycheck for up to 6 weeks per year under California’s Paid Family Leave program. Employees are immediately eligible on hire but can take paid leave only for the specified reasons.
Your boss does not have to keep your job open or continue other employee benefits while you are on leave. However, if your employer has more than 50 employees, jobs are protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act, both which run concurrently with the Paid Family Leave program.
The 7-Day Wait
Paid leave can be taken all at one time or intermittently. Unused portions in a year cannot be carried over to the next year.
There is a 7-day waiting period for payment of any benefits. This means that a worker must be off work for 8 days before collecting any check. For example, a worker who is taking the full 6 weeks of time off begins to collect benefits in the second week of leave and is paid through the 7th week.
If employees take intermittent leave rather than consecutive, the 7-day waiting period applies to each separate illness.
Example: Your 20-year old daughter is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and you take off a week from work to be with her. If you meet the other various eligibility requirements, you can get benefits on the 8th day.
Example: In the same year, your elderly mother slips and falls, breaking her hip and becomes bedridden. You take a short leave to drive her to physical therapy and do other errands. Another 7-day waiting period kicks in before you can tap benefits on the 8th day.
Example: That same year, your husband suffers a head injury in a car accident and needs round-the-clock care for 2 weeks. You stay home to care for his needs. Again, you must wait 7 days before paid benefits kick in.
Any unused portion is still available, but you can only take 6 weeks of paid leave during a year’s time.
Other Rules That Apply
- Your boss can require you to take existing vacation time first, to a maximum of 2 weeks, before collecting family leave benefits, but cannot require you to use sick leave. If you use sick time, your family leave benefits will be reduced by the sick leave wages.
- Anyone who pays state disability insurance (SDI) is eligible for the paid leave. Self-employed are covered if they pay into the SDI Elective Coverage Program.
- Workers must get a note from the treating doctor if caring for a sick relative and a certification form for bonding with a new baby.
- Workers cannot collect SDI, Unemployment Insurance or Workers’ Compensation benefits while receiving family leave benefits.
- Paid benefits are not available if (a) you do not have a loss of wages, (b) you are looking for work at the time family leave begins, (c) you are in custody due to a criminal conviction, or (d) some other family member is able, willing and available to provide care.
- Eligible employees may collect family leave benefits whether or not they are covered by federal and state family leave laws.
- Most government workers are not eligible under this program.
The program is 100% employee-funded though payroll deductions. The amount of benefits an employee receives is based on his or her calendar quarter with the highest earnings for the previous 12 months. Employees receive about 55% of their regular weekly salary during their leave, up to a maximum of $840 a week for 2006. Payments are not subject to California State income tax. Payments must be included in your gross income reported to the federal IRS, but you should contact a tax specialist to see if any amount of the payments will be subject to tax.