Under California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) Act, persons who take time off of work to care for seriously ill relatives or registered domestic partners may receive payment for their caregiving efforts. Compensation is referred to as “wage replacement” and, as of Jan. 1, 2020 can be up to 70% of one’s current income. At the time of this writing, the program provides income replacement for up to six weeks in a 12-month period. (Starting July 1, 2020, income replacement can be for as long as eight weeks). However, the law does not require their employer to hold one’s job for them. Program administration is under the California Employment Development Department (EDD).
This program should not be confused with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA is a federal program that offers eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12 month period but guarantees their job or an equivalent one be held for them. It also ensures their health insurance continues.
The caregiver must be a California resident who has State Disability Insurance (SDI) through their employer. SDI is an insurance plan that offers partial wage replacement for CA employees. Most large employers maintain this insurance.
The care recipient must be a seriously ill parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, child, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner. If you are caring for an aunt or uncle, then this program would not offer you a substitute for part of your lost wages if you had to take time off. There is no rule that the care recipient be living in California or be a state resident only that the caregiver must be a CA resident.
Serious health condition means the person has an illness, injury, mental health condition, or physical impairments that requires care in a hospital, hospice center, or at home on a continuous basis. Certification of the condition from a doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner may be required.
The caregiver must take time off work. There is no minimum amount of time in which they must have held a job, but their compensation is based on their previous earnings. Thus, persons who have held a position for only a short period of time may receive effectively no compensation. Caregivers also must have earned a minimum of $300 in wages during the “base period” of their claim. Base period calculations are complicated. But simplified this means the caregiver must have earned a minimum of $300 in the 5 to 18 months preceding their claim. In order to receive the maximum benefit amount of $1,300 / month, one must have earned a minimum of $28,145.01 for a calendar quarter during one’s base period. The minimum benefit amount is $50 / month.
Caregivers must supply detailed medical information about the care recipient’s condition and requirements for care.
Caregivers taking time off work may receive up to between 60% and 70% of their lost wages up to a maximum of $1,300 per week (as of January 2020), for up to 6 weeks during a 12-month period. (As mentioned previously, beginning July 1, 2020, income replacement will extend to up to eight weeks). The benefit amount is determined by an applicants’ highest quarter of earnings during the previous 12-months.
There is no requirement that an employer hold the position open for the worker on leave and no requirement that the 6 weeks (or beginning July 1, 2020, 8 weeks) of leave be taken consecutively. Employees are advised to carefully structure their leave, whenever possible, in advance with their employer to minimize disruption to their employer.
However, a national law may help protect a caregiver’s job, if they take time under the California family leave program. All state and federal offices and some larger private sector employers are subject to the rules of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which can be used in combination to hold one’s position and their health insurance benefits during their absence.
Employers may require employees use up to two weeks of any earned but unused vacation leave or paid time off prior to receiving PFL benefits.
An online application procedure cuts processing and saves trips to the post office. After completing the online application form, applicants will receive a unique tracking number for the doctor’s certification.
To learn more, one can also download a brochure about the program from EDD here.
Claims must be filed no later than 41 days after your first day of leave.