As a nation, the United States grants zero days of paid maternity leave. We are the only high-income country of the world to offer no paid family leave whatsoever, which means we finish dead last for financially taking care of our countries’ new mothers after childbirth. But if you live in California, there’s good news!
California is one of (currently) four states picking up America’s slack and offering paid maternity (and paternity) leave. In 2002, they became the first state to pass a law requiring the Paid Family Leave program.
California is the pioneer in shaping a program that many new moms find to be a necessity. While some private companies do offer their employees paid family leave, the vast majority do not receive this coverage. Most could easily argue for the importance of maternity leave, yet it still isn’t a priority for national spending. Long before any other states, California realized the need to set families with new babies up for success.
California Takes Care of New Moms, Dads and Babies
If you are a soon-to-be mom or dad living in California, lucky you! Not only has paid leave been required for over 15 years, it recently underwent changes to offer even more coverage. California now has four separate laws that new moms and dads can benefit from depending on their situation. The four programs are:
- California Family Rights Act or Parent Leave Act
- Paid Family Leave
- Pregnancy Disability Leave
As you can imagine, with multiple programs there is a lot of information to sift through. It’s important to be proactive and know what kind of leave and pay you (and your spouse or partner) will qualify for as a new mom. Here we have consolidated all of the information about each of the laws. It’s also important to know that your health coverage will continue while you are on leave, which is certainly a relief. Any accrued seniority will not lapse, either. Isn’t it great California is empowering new moms?!
California Family Rights Act (CFRA) or Parent Leave Act (PLA)
The national law of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and CFRA/PLA are very similar. There are a few differences, however, and they are outlined below. CFRA/PLA, otherwise known as the “bonding laws”, are essentially the same in regarding the benefit for new parents.
Eligibility: Both mother and father are entitled to this bonding leave if he/she has:
- Worked for his/her employer for at least one year,
- worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year,
- and the employer has 1) at least 20 employees for PLA OR 2) at least 50 employees for CFRA. The number of employees counted are those working within a 75-mile radius.
Pay: Unpaid job protection. However, employees can often use paid vacation time, paid leave, or paid time off during this time period.
Period of Leave: 12 weeks of leave are granted within one year after childbirth, adoption, or the start of foster care. Unlike FMLA, the period of leave cannot be used during pregnancy. It can, however, be taken intermittently within that one year.
Paid Family Leave (PFL)
California’s PFL is entirely funded by State Disability Insurance which is deducted from an employee’s pay. This is mandatory of all private employees to pay into.
Eligibility: Moms and Dads who need to take a leave from work to care for a new child (including newly fostered or adopted children) are eligible. There is no work length requirement to receive PFL, but employees need to have earned at least $300 in the year before making a claim.
Pay: Approximately 60 to 70 percent of an employee’s weekly salary is paid out, with a minimum of $50 per week and a maximum of $1,252 per week. Moms and Dads who earn less than one-third of the state’s average quarterly wage will be paid 70 percent of their weekly pay. If you make more than one-third of the average wage, you will be paid 60 percent. This chart shows the exact weekly benefit you can expect.
Vacation time, sick leave, and/or paid time off may be used if granted by your employer to reach 100 percent of your pay. This online calculator is a great tool to determine your pay allowance.
Period of Leave: PFL provides up to six weeks of partial pay.
Eligibility: This California law only covers new moms with a pregnancy-(or childbirth) related disability. A doctor must deem the mother unable to perform her job. For a normal pregnancy, it is common that PDL will be granted four weeks before a mom’s due date and extending 6-8 weeks after childbirth.
Pay: You’ll need to check with your employer on this one. If the employer pays employees on temporary disability, then the pay for PDL will match that. Remember also that you’ll be able to use your PFL benefit and possibly other paid time you’ve accrued through your employer.
Period of Leave: Up to four months of leave can be taken through PDL. Her doctor will determine the amount of leave required by the new mother.
California stepped up for new moms…what about the other states?
In 2002, California made the first move to take better care of new moms, new dads and new babies. Not only do the state’s citizens see the bonding benefit to these families and their babies, they realize the positive economic impact it has, as well. A few other states have since joined in and both Washington and Washington, D.C. will begin offering paid maternity leave in 2020. It’s been several years since new states have entered into a paid maternity leave system, so hopefully, a precedent is being set with more states to follow.
If you don’t call California home, check out our other post to find out your maternity leave rights by state.