California Paid Family Leave: It can be a Life Saver

In 2002, California became the first State in the nation to offer paid family leave to employees who take time off work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner, or to bond with a new child. Unemp.Ins.C. §§ 2601, 3301(a); 22 Cal.C.Regs. § 3303–1.  The statute is known either as the Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) or Family Temporary Disability Insurance (FTDI). This is almost a hidden statute; few people are aware of it and many, many HR departments are unaware of its existence or fail to inform properly the employee of the benefits available.  This statute is essentially an extension of the State SDI (Disability Insurance) program.  When it enacted PFL the legislature approved a .08 pecent increase in SDI withholding to pay for the program.  So, you’ve paid for it; use it if you need it! The key features of the PFL are the following:

  • PFL works in conjunction with the FMLA or the CFRA.  If you take protected leave to care for another under either of those statutes, PFL will provide you with benefits for up to 6 weeks.
  • The compensation available is 55% of your wages up to a weekly benefit maximum of $1011.  The rate schedule is identical to the disability schedule.  You can find your benefit amount at the EDD here: http://www.edd.ca.gov/pdf_pub_ctr/de2588.pdf
  • PFl does not cover your disability: that comes from Disability Insurance.
  • There is a one week waiting period (seven consecutive days) before PFL benefits apply.  However, leave taken at different times during one 12 month period to care for the same family member are considered one “benefit period” so that a new waiting period is not necessary.
  • PFL includes incapacity due to pregnancy; there is no waiting period after pregnancy leave to obtain benefits for bonding with the newborn child.
  • The employer may require the employee taking PFL to use up to two weeks of earned but unused vacation pay before receiving PFL benefits.  The waiting period runs during while vacation is being used. Unemp.Ins.C. § 3303.1(c); 22 Cal.C.Regs. § 3303.1(c)–1
  • The employee must provide a certificate attesting to the illness of the family member or the birth of a child.
  • There is no job protection by virtue of the PFL.  It is designed for use with the CFRA or FMLA which allow 12 weeks of protected but unpaid leave to care for a family member.

If you take CFRA or FMLA leave be sure to request PFL or FTDI benefits at the time your leave begins.  Your employer must participate in the processing of your request for benefits.  The employer must notify you of your right to PFL benefits.  If they have no idea what to look for, tell HR they need form DE 2501F from the EDD.  If they are still confused, direct them to http://www.edd.ca.gov/Forms/#footer which is a searchable forms bank on line with the DFEH.  This site and other EDD sites lays out in detail the mechanics of claim filing.