Paid Family Leave California State Laws

Arguably, one of the most asked about HR topics is family leave law across the US. You’ve likely heard of it many times, but do you really know what the Federal paid family leave act covers or how it affects you and your employees? The best place to start to understand paid family leave, is to look at how it functions in general, across the States as a whole. Following this, we’ll dive into the paid family leave California (PFL) offers, to provide an example that is beneficial, no matter which state you are reading this from.

Federal Paid Family Leave

A Federal Family Leave definition is important to include here before moving on. In a nutshell, this leave time is applied towards workers who are required to take sick leave to care for family members, while still getting paid. It also provides paid family leave for fathers and mothers to bond with newborns, adoptions or foster care. At a Federal level, there is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This allows workers to take leave without worrying about losing their job. However, it does not provide pay during the time off. Individual states can supplement the FMLA to make up for this. California is one such example.

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Paid Family Leave California 

California is one of the few states to have a comprehensive PFL policy. HR managers need to be aware of this and how it can affect employees. This Family Leave Act allows qualifying California workers to receive weekly, tax-free benefits until they’re able to return to work. Looking at their quarterly earnings 5 – 18 months before, they receive between 60 – 70% of their highest quarter. So, if a PFL claim begins in April, May, or June, the weekly benefit amount is calculated from the quarter they earnt the most in between January 1st and December 31st of the year before.

Workers can currently claim six weeks PFL, over a 12 month period. They do not have to take these six weeks continuously. The weeks can be broken up throughout the year. Take note, this will be extended to eight weeks PFL come July 2020. Employers should be aware that there is a one week paid leave waiting period between applying for PFL and receiving it. Employers can also require workers to take up two weeks of unused vacation before receiving their first PFL payment.

California PFL Eligibility 

Many people ask the question “Do I qualify for family leave in California?” There are conditions to paid family leave California eligibility which employers must note. For workers to qualify for paid leave their employer must pay into California State Disability Insurance (CASDI). If, and only if, they do this, employees will be entitled to receive PFL. To take full advantage of this Employee Sick Leave Act, workers must have earned at least $300 in wages during the previous 12 months, from which CASDI was withheld through payroll deduction. 

Another key criterion for eligibility to paid family leave California, is that workers must have just cause. This would include a seriously ill family member or a birth in the family. There are two different types of PFL claims in California which workers may apply for. HR managers need to be aware of both. We will have a brief look at them now.

PFL Care

This is for workers who need to take PFL to: 

  • Care for a seriously ill or injured child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.
  • Care for an out-of-state or out-of-country family member.

Those who provide care, receive 60 – 70% of their weekly salary.

PFL Bonding

  • Can be used to bond with a biological, foster, or adopted child.
  • Documentation showing proof of relationship can be a copy of the child’s birth certificate, birth record, or foster/adoptive placement agreement.

For bonding, the recipient receives 60 – 70% of their weekly salary.

These claims require separate PFL forms but follow the same paid family leave payment schedule.

What if you’re not paying into CASDI?

If your company does not pay in, under California Paid Family Leave law workers do not receive a pay out. Whilst it is seen by many as a benefit to pay into the CASDI, it is not obligatory. If your company has chosen not to pay in, how can you still offer a degree of security to your employees?

There are many private insurance companies that offer a similar service to PFL. HR managers should have a list of insurers on hand to make up for a lack of PFL covered by the state. This is private insurance, but fulfills the same function. If staff need family illness leave the private insurer enables them to take it whilst still being paid. Cigna is one example of an insurance firm providing this service. Cigna paid family leave will offer financial help, allowing workers to take paid time off work to help care for ill family members or children.

If your company cannot give much, or any, paid family and medical leave, partnering with this firm will help. Legislation for paid sick leave at a national level is growing. In the meantime, this will offer your employee a piece of mind should the worst arise.

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PFL and FMLA – The Difference

You may be wondering “what is the difference between the PFL and FMLA?” In essence, they are very similar. Let’s take a look at the main similarities and differences below. 

Time Frame

FMLA gives qualifying workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. PFL gives qualifying workers only up to 6 weeks of paid leave. 

Qualifying for Leave 

FMLA is a nationwide Act which covers private sector workers in a company with 50 or more employees. PFL is currently only available to workers in California. Furthermore, these workers must be paying into CASDI.

Amount of Pay Received 

FMLA does not give the worker payment during time off work. Workers can choose, or employers may require them to substitute paid sick, vacation or personal leave for FMLA. This is at the company’s discretion. PFL ensures that qualifying workers in California receive a percentage of their salary. PFL must be taken concurrently if the worker chooses to take FMLA.

Job Guarantee after Leave

FMLA guarantees the worker the same or equivalent job they have taken leave from once leave is over. PFL does not guarantee the worker the same job, only the pay. However, if FMLA and PFL are taken concurrently, they are also covered by the FMLA’s job protection clause.

Concluding Remarks 

Federal paid family leave is a great way of supporting workers affected by illness and family issues. Paid family leave California 2020 is also a great solution for workers affected particularly in this state. It is of the utmost importance that employers and HR managers are aware of the ways in which these Acts function. 

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Contributed by Charlotte Stace; Edited by Tanya Lesiuk

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