If you struggle to balance work and family caregiving responsibilities, you are not alone. From new parents with infants to older workers with aging parents, caregiving issues are huge for many workers.
What are the options, in California, for helping to manage both your paid employment and caregiving duties?
In this post, we will use a Q & A format to take note of five useful things to know in understanding your options.
How many employers have company-specific policies that allow for paid time off?
Some supportive employers do offer paid family leave to employees to take care of a newborn or other family member. If you work for a progressive employer, in a favorable industry such as tech, the leave may even be several months.
Nationally, however, only about 14 percent of workers have access to paid family leave through employers. Indeed, the majority of workers in the U.S. do not even get personal medical leave under employer-provided insurance policies for temporary disability. Fewer than 40 of employees have such coverage.
Does California law go beyond federal law in providing family leave?
Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees who have worked for a certain amount of time for an employer are entitled to take unpaid, job-protected leave for up to 12 weeks upon the birth or adoption of a child, to care for an immediate family member, or for a serious health condition.
In California, a state law called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides similar protections. Like the FMLA, leave under CFRA is unpaid.
CFRA differs from FMLA, however, in how it treats pregnancy. Under the FMLA, pregnancy is classified as a “serious health condition.” Under CFRA, pregnancy is not lumped in with other serious health conditions. Instead, if you are pregnant and work for an employer with five or more employees, CFRA grants you the right to take up to 16 weeks (about four months) of pregnancy disability leave (PDL).
What about paid leave?
As noted earlier, some employers do offer paid leave to allow employees to take on caregiving duties. Most employers, however, do not.
In California, state law provides for a 6-week paid family leave (PFL) program to bond with a new child or take care of a seriously ill family member.
PFL benefits are only partial. They offer eligible workers up to 55 percent of what they were making previously. And they only last for six weeks.
To be sure, that’s better than nothing. But when what you making is cut nearly in half, clearly that’s a serious financial hit.
What if you work part-time or intermittently? Can you still be eligible for PFL?
Yes, it is possible to be eligible for PFL, even if you work intermittently or part-time. But you must be able to show you are unable to keep doing that work due to caregiving duties. You must also show a wage loss.
What about keeping your job when you come back from using family leave?
Under the FMLA, if you who work a company with 50 or more employees, your job is protected while you’re gone on leave.
Last year, Governor Brown vetoed a California law that would have created comparable protections for employees at small businesses with between 20 and 49 employees. This means that, even in California – one of only a handful of states with paid family leave – you can lose your job for using that leave if you work for small employer.