As California marks the tenth anniversary of the Paid Family Leave program, a new law that took effect Tuesday will be expanding coverage to a broader circle of family members.
The new law, SB770, broadens the definition of family under Family Paid Leave to allow workers to receive partial wage replacement benefits while taking care of seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law. The bill was authored by Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. Previously paid leave only extended to the care of parents, spouse, and children.
“California became the first state in the nation to offer benefits to employees who take time off to care for a seriously ill child, parent, spouse, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child. And today, thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall, we’re expanding that program to cover caring for a seriously ill grandparent, grandchild, sibling, and parent-in-law,” Secretary David Lanier of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency said Tuesday.
The Paid Family Leave program is administered by the California Employment Development Department. It provides benefits of 55 percent of a worker’s wage, up to a weekly maximum of $1,067, during the time a worker has to take off to care for a family member. Since its inception the average benefit has risen from $405 a week in 2004 to $526 a week in 2014.
The number of PFL claims has grown steadily, from 150,514 in the first year to 215,830 in the most recently completed year of 2012-2013, a total of 1.8 million claims in the first nine years.
“When PFL was signed into law a decade ago, it signaled a recognition that employees at times have to make difficult decisions between family and work obligations, and we simply don’t want Californians to have to choose between being good parents and good employees,” said EDD Director Patrick W. Henning Jr. “I’m proud of the dedicated work EDD staff have delivered over the last ten years in easing those decisions for about 1.8 million of our fellow Californians, and supporting their families’ needs.”
Ninety percent of the claims are for bonding with a new child, ten percent for caring for an ill family member. The number of men filing claims, most of them new fathers, has increased over 400 percent, from 12,812 in the first year to 65,513 last year.
“California’s first-in-the-nation Paid Family Leave law has provided California families with economic stability during important family events and has benefited California businesses and the state economy. Now it’s a model as a national conversation starts about how best to provide paid family leave across the country," said Ann O’Leary, vice-president and director of the Children and Families program at Next Generation.