A California legislative bill, Assembly Bill 908, or AB 908, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on April 11, 2016, will increase paid leave for California workers who qualify for paid family leave.

Benefits will increase from their current level of 55 percent to 60 or 70 percent depending on the employee’s income level. Those with lower income levels will receive 70 percent, while those with higher income levels will receive 60 percent. Also, starting in 2018, the state will eliminate the 7-day waiting period for employees to receive temporary disability benefits.

Understanding California Paid Family Leave Laws

How will AB 908 help California employees?

AB 908 is designed to ease the financial burden on employees who wish to take leave to take care of a new baby or to care for an ill family member. The bill also allows California employees to receive a portion of his or her pay while on approved leave.

AB 908 will go into effect on January 1, 2018, so if you are on disability right now or plan on going on temporary disability as part of family leave, you will be eligible for the current benefit level of 55 percent of your income.

What is California’s current paid family leave law?

California boasts the nation’s first paid family leave law. Passed a decade ago, the original law which is currently in effect, states that workers would be eligible for 55 percent of their wages for six weeks to bond with a new child or to care for an ill family member. The original paid family leave law will remain in effect for those who go on temporary disability until January 1, 2016.

How is California paid family leave paid for?

The California paid leave law is funded through worker contributions, in a similar way that Federal Social Security is funded. Employees have a certain portion of their wages deducted to fund the program and then employees who need to use it, receive payment from that fund. Employers are not required to make contributions to the fund. To cover the increase in benefits from 55 percent to 60 and 70 percent, respectively, California will be increasing payroll deductions from employees.

Can an employer refuse to allow me to take leave?

This depends on the specific facts at hand, but generally, under the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), employers should permit employees to take leave to care for a new child or to care for a sick family member. Under those laws, employers should not punish employees who take such leave, but they are not required to pay employees during that time.

Each employer has its own internal policies on taking leave, such as when an employee becomes eligible to take vacation or sick leave, or how much time one is permitted to take at a given time. But, these policies cannot violate Federal or state law.

So, if you are eligible for leave under FMLA or the CFRA, you likely would be eligible to receive paid family leave under California law.

If you have further questions or concerns about your rights regarding paid family leave in California, an experienced employment attorney can help. Contact our California employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz now for a free consultation.