California’s Paid Family Leave Law celebrated its first anniversary on July 1. More than 100,000 workers have taken advantage of the new legislation. The law provides much-needed relief for workers who cannot afford to take time off from work without pay to bond with a newborn, adopted or foster child or to care for a seriously ill family member.
California Employment Development Department statistics show that, since July 1, 2004, more than 150,000 parents applied for paid leave benefits to bond with a newborn, while more than 20,000 Californians took time off to care for a seriously ill family member.
The Paid Family Leave Law, authored by Senator Sheila Kuehl, is funded entirely by workers through contributions to California’s State Disability Insurance program. It allows employees to collect up to 55 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of $840 per week, while caring for their loved ones. According to EDD, close to $300 million in benefits were paid to workers in the program’s first year, which was less than originally projected.
“We are pleased that nearly 21,000 families in California who are caring for ill or elderly relatives benefited from Paid Family Leave last year,” said FCA Executive Director Kathleen Kelly. “They’ve been able to take time to arrange care services for a parent living far away, to attend to the multiple needs of a spouse newly home from the hospital or to be with a loved one in the last days or weeks of life.
“The program has had a critical impact on the working families who have eldercare responsibilities—and it represents a good beginning. As awareness of the benefits of paid family leave increases, so will usage among caregivers who are so often caught in the middle of work and family demands.”
Cheryl Stewart, a beneficiary of California’s Paid Family Leave Law, said “My mother suffers from dementia. Her condition is not serious enough to require skilled nursing care, but she has to have someone with her at all times. That’s when I turned to paid family leave. I was able to get paid while taking two days off each week for six months, and spend those days taking care of my mother.”
“California’s law is a model for the nation,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “This issue has strong, bipartisan support nationwide because laws like California’s not only help women and their families, they also benefit employers by increasing productivity and reducing employee turnover. This law is good for employers and employees.”
Currently, 21 states are considering some form of paid family leave legislation. A federal version has been introduced by Representative Pete Stark (D-CA), which would institute a nationwide system for paid family leave.
The Paid Family Leave Outreach Coalition, a statewide group of social service and advocacy organizations and unions, is working to educate California’s families about paid family leave. Members of the Coalition include: Family Caregiver Alliance/National Center on Caregiving; Labor Project for Working Families; The Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center; National Partnership for Women & Families; California Labor Federation; Office of Senator Sheila Kuehl; First 5 California; Equal Rights Advocates; California National Organization for Women; CA Commission on the Status of Women; Asian Law Caucus; and the California Women’s Law Center.
For more information about Paid Family Leave, visit www.edd.ca.gov or call (877) BE-THERE.
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