Data released this month by the Paid Family Leave Coalition found that while more than 50 percent of Californians state they will need some form of paid leave in the next five years, only 29 percent know that they are paying into such a program. The study also found that while many Californians were unaware of the two-year-old program, those who have taken advantage of it say it worked well for them. California is currently the only state in the nation with a comprehensive paid family leave law.
The Paid Family Leave law provides most Californians with up to six weeks of partial pay when taking leave from work to bond with a new baby, foster, or adopted child or to care for a seriously ill parent, spouse, child, or domestic partner. The benefits are entirely employee-funded through California’s State Disability Insurance (SDI) program and allow workers to collect up to 55 percent of their salary, up to a maximum of $840 per week.
While the federal Family Medical Leave Act grants 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees at large companies, many caregivers cannot afford to take time off work without pay.
With partially paid leave, families can focus on critical eldercare needs: caring for someone in the terminal stages of an illness or during a health crisis; helping a loved one make the transition from hospital to home; arranging in-home or out-of-home care; organizing a team to care for a parent in a distant town; arranging for and attending medical appointments; managing medications; and numerous other activities of daily life that a formerly independent family member can no longer perform.
“When they return to work,” said Kathy Kelly, Family Caregiver Alliance’s Executive Director, “these caregiving employees are then more able to concentrate on their jobs—a benefit to both employer and employee. More than 35,000 Californians have taken advantage of the leave to care for a seriously ill family member. As awareness of the program benefits increases, we expect that number to increase as well.”
As the wave of Baby Boomers rapidly moves into the position of either needing care or providing it to a frail or elderly parent, as hospital stays are shortened and families are called upon more and more to provide intensive healthcare to loved ones, as women—the traditional caregivers—maintain positions in the workplace and two-income families find it difficult to meet everyday financial obligations, California’s Paid Family Leave law provides families a way to meet both their work and care responsibilities. FCA applauds the California legislature and State Senator Sheila Kuehl for initiating this essential legislation.
For more information on the Paid Family Leave law, call (877) BE-THERE or visit http://www.edd.ca.gov/fleclaimpfl.htm.
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