Starting July 2014, California paid family leave law expands to include extended family. Paid Family Leave Law in California provides paid time off for workers who need to care for a sick person in their immediate family, which was child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner. Now that list includes other relatives that workers may be responsible for supporting during illness or injury.
As of July 2014, the law expands this list to include siblings, grandparents, in-laws, and grandchildren. The law started as bill SB770 introduced by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and was signed by Governor Jerry Brown in 2013 to take effect this year. The law doesn’t increase costs to taxpayers because the leave is paid from the state unemployment insurance.
Part of Jackson’s reasoning for the bill is that 2010 census data shows more than a million California grandparents live with their grandchildren and more than a quarter of those care for their grandchildren. She said testimony from experts about the increasing aging population of California, and the question of who will take care of that aging population, convinced her of the need for job protection to ease the caregiver burden on working people.
Jackson developed the bill so that the state’s Paid Family Leave program is aligned with actual caregiving responsibilities faced by families in California. The Senate Office of Research found that the state’s Employment Development Department rejects 10 percent of paid family leave claims because of excluded family members’ care. She says the law prevents families from having to make the terrible choice of caring for sick loved ones or putting food on the table.
Sharon Terman with the Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center in San Francisco agrees with Jackson’s sentiments, calling the expansion a “critical step” to protect jobs when workers have relatives to care for.
The expanded coverage is funded through the state disability insurance program and paid through paycheck deductions. Eligibility requires a doctor’s certificate that records the relative’s illness and need for care to pay the 55% of wages during the caregiving period and pays for up to six weeks per year.
The new law doesn’t give workers the absolute right to take time off for caregiving, so it is not a new legally protected leave of absence. Employers can review requests for approval, and employees can seek wage replacement during a qualifying approved absence.