California outpaced the rest of the country in 2004 when they became the first state to put a Paid Family Leave (PFL) law into effect, allowing employees who meet certain qualifications to receive a partially paid, six week long period of time to care for either their newborn child, or for an ailing child, parent or spouse. This type of leave is very uncommon in the United States for providing eligible employees with any amount of pay during their period of leave.
Family medical leave in lieu of paternity leave for fathers
One of the intentions of California’s PFL is to give new fathers the opportunity to take precious time off to help care for and bond with their newborn child - without also having to give up their wages for that amount of time. PFL provides eligible employees with partially paid benefits (usually 55 percent of their typical wages) for a six week period of time following the arrival of a new child. The practice of paid paternity leave, which is popular in many other countries, is not often available to new fathers in the United States and is not currently provided through federal law. At present, Paid Family Leave is offered only in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and in January 2018 will go into effect in New York.
While Paid Family Leave will hopefully continue to gain ground in the United States, new or soon to be new fathers living and working in California should take time to familiarize themselves with the Paid Family Leave that may be available to them. We’ve listed some of the most important points of the PFL program below.
Eligibility requirements for PFL in California
In order for new fathers to take paid paternity leave using PFL, they must meet the following requirements:
● The arrival of a new child to the family through either birth, foster care or adoption must have taken place with the past 12 months.
● An employee who has already taken six weeks of Paid Family Leave within the previous 12 month period is not eligible.
● The employee is required to have paid into State Disability Insurance (SDI) in the previous five to 18 months.
Paid Family Leave and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
It’s very likely that more people are familiar with the Family and Medical Leave Act, which is a federal labor law that provides eligible employees with 12 weeks of leave that is unpaid, but which does provide job protection for that employee - a feature that is not present in Paid Family Leave.
However, employers who are already required to follow the provisions of the FMLA will usually require employees who are eligible for PFL to take FMLA in conjunction with their Paid Family Leave. This provides the employee with both the partial payment for 6 weeks of PFL, as well as the job security that comes with FMLA for a 12 week period.
Because there can be a lot of nuance to the possible eligibility of fathers who are seeking to be covered by PFL, it is recommended that anyone interested in taking leave and receiving benefits following the birth of a child should speak to their employer about this possibility well in advance to avoid unnecessary complications. We further encourage anyone who feels they have been unfairly denied or discouraged from taking Paid Family Leave that they feel is within their right as an employee and a new father in California to contact our offices today. We may be able to offer you advice and answers regarding the legal options that might be available to you.