"Family leave, childcare, flexibility—these aren’t frills. They’re basic needs. They shouldn’t be bonuses—they should be the bottom line." --President Obama, June 21, 2014
According to the Pew Research Center, the United States ranks last of the OECD countries in government-supported leave for new parents. Estonia is number one with 108 weeks of paid leave and 180 weeks of job protection during leave. That’s TWO YEARS OF PAID LEAVE! Contrast that with the United State where we provide our new parents with 0 weeks of paid leave and only 12 weeks of protected leave through the Family Leave Medical Act (FMLA). Even our job protection leave is less than any of the countries included in the Pew study. On top of it, FMLA does not even apply to everyone. You have to work for at least a year for a company with at least 50 employees to be eligible for job protected leave.
While we are definitely behind as a nation, we are making some headway in California. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the Paid Family Leave Act (PFLA) in California. As the first state, and one of only three, to pass this legislation, we in California have a lot to be proud of. Today is also the first day of the expansion of PFLA to include more family members than just children, parents, spouses, or registered domestic partners. As of today, PFLA can be used to care for seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and parents-in-law. Most of us are not aware of PFLA and what it means for us in California so I’m going to give you an abbreviated breakdown so you know your rights, but make sure to do your research before you apply for leave to receive all the benefits you’re eligible for:
• State Disability Insurance: Check your paycheck. Most likely, you are contributing to the California State Disability fund. This makes you eligible to still receive part of your income when you leave work for disability or illness, including pregnancy-related disabilities, or to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with your newborn baby or newly adopted child. There are special circumstances for military duty and domestic violence victims to receive support as well. You can receive up to 10 weeks of wage replacement with SDI.
• Paid Family Leave: If you are eligible for Paid Family Leave, you can receive up to 55% of your weekly wages for up to six weeks. There is a maximum benefit cap of around $1000/week. This does not include job protection. You do not have to take the six weeks off consecutively. PFL can be taken hourly, daily, or weekly. That is all up to you.
• Pregnancy Disability Leave: In California, we also have Pregnancy Disability Leave, which allows employees to take unpaid leave for any condition that is pregnancy-related. The leave is unpaid. This covers employees even in companies in which there are only 5 or more employees. With PDL, a woman can take up to 4 months of leave for childbirth, complications, or other disabilities related to pregnancy. Eligibility for PDL is much simpler. You are not required to work for your employer for a certain amount of time, nor are you required to work for a certain amount of hours per week.
• California Family Rights Act: In California, you are also eligible under the California Family Rights Act to receive an additional 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave, which can overlap with FMLA, but can also add on a significant amount of protected leave for new parents. CFRA is California’s version of FMLA. It covers same-sex domestic partners, which FMLA does not, but it does not provide leave for pregnancy-related conditions. It allows you to bond with a new child or care for yourself or a close relative with a serious health condition.
• Family Medical Leave Act: The smartest way to go about getting PFL and SDI are to also make sure to register for FMLA at the same time and PDL (if you are pregnant) and follow that with CFRA. You are only covered for FMLA and CFRA if your employer employs at least 50 people within 75 miles of where you work, if you have worked for your employer for at least one full year, and if you will have worked for at least 25 hours per week during that year before you take leave.
Between PFLA, FMLA, PDL, SDI, and CFRA, a pregnant and newly parenting woman in California can receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protection within one year and she can also receive up to 16 weeks of wage replacement.
But for our dear friends living in other states, they are likely to only receive the 12 weeks of job protection when they have children. That is why it’s up to us to pressure Congress pass the Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMILY) Act, which would create a national paid leave fund so that Americans across the country can take time off for serious health issues or to care for a new child without worrying about whether or not they’ll be able to make rent at the end of the month.
Act now by clicking here to send a letter to your Senators and Representatives urging them to support the Family Act.