New Law Alert: Longer Paid Family Leave to Take Effect in 2020  

Posted by Joe Sayas | Jan 16, 2020

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) entitles employees who work in businesses of 50 or more employees, 12 weeks of leave from work. This benefit is provided when they have to care for their seriously ill child, parent or spouse, for birth of and bonding with a newborn, or for the adoption or foster care a child. Unless there are employer policies providing payment, the leave is generally unpaid.

However, California created a component under the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program which entitled employees to disability payments while they take time off work to:

  • Care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, domestic partner,
  • Bond with a new child,
  • Bond child in connection with adoption or foster care placement.

The program, known as Paid Family Leave (PFL), is administered by the State Employment Development Department's (EDD) Disability Insurance Branch. Employees covered by SDI are also covered for this benefit. The maximum claim benefit is six times the weekly benefit amount. Current law caps the PFL benefits at 6 weeks. This means no more than six weeks of PFL benefits may be paid within any 12-month period.

However, starting July 1, 2020, Senate Bill 83 (SB 83) allows employees paying into the SDI program to claim up to eight weeks in PFL. Additionally, the new law creates a task force to develop a PFL program that extends benefits to six months by 2022.  An employee who is eligible for PFL benefits under this new law may claim up to eight weeks of family leave within a twelve-month period.

The PFL program does not provide job protection. However, employees are protected if they are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and CFRA.

Employees who apply for paid family leave must provide a medical certificate of the seriously ill family member. The certificate must include a qualified diagnosis; the beginning date of the disability; the probable duration; the estimated time care is needed; and state the serious health condition requiring employee to provide care. This includes “providing psychological comfort” and arranging “third party care.”

An estimate of the amount of time necessary to provide care is also required. If another family member is able to provide care during the same period, the employee may not qualify for paid leave.

For bonding with a child, PFL is limited to the first year after the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child.

There is a seven-day waiting period before benefits are paid.  Employers may require employees to use up to two weeks of vacation leave or paid time off (PTO) prior to receiving paid leave benefits. The first week of vacation or PTO will be applied to the waiting period. Employees who are entitled to leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act must take PFL concurrent with leave taken under those acts.

Employees cannot receive PFL benefits while receiving Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, or Workers' Compensation benefits that exceed their weekly benefit amount.           


About the Author

Joe Sayas

C. JOE SAYAS, JR., Esq. Recognized as one of California's top employment and labor law attorneys by the Daily Journal, C. Joe Sayas, Jr. has devoted his more than 25-year litigation career to protecting workers' and consumer rights. He has fought for employees discriminated due to disability, ra...

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