10 years and counting: Paid family leave helping California families stay strong and secure

Photo: public good via Flickr Creative Commons

Photo: public good via Flickr Creative Commons

Ten years ago, California’s Paid Family Leave filled a crucial gap in federal legislation by establishing an insurance program that provides workers up to six weeks of paid leave to care for a new child or a seriously ill family member.

Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993, workers have access to up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to address a serious illness for oneself or one’s family member. However, this leave is unpaid, making family leave out-of-reach for many workers.

Paid family leave has had wide-ranging benefits for California families, workers, and businesses, including:

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Ten Years of the California Paid Family Leave Program: Strengthening Commitment to Work, Affirming Commitment to Family [PDF]

  • Family well-being: Mothers who took leave under the PFL program reported breastfeeding for longer periods,3 which has important health benefits for children and mothers.
  • Economic security: Paid family leave allows workers to take much-needed leave without sacrificing their full pay.
  • Equal opportunity: Because paid family leave is a statutory right, it equalizes access to paid leave across occupations and income levels, rather than making workers dependent on their employer for it.
  • Better business practices: Paid family leave reduces workforce turnover and the costs associated with it.

To date, over one million workers have taken advantage of the program – and an overwhelming majority of claims filed were for bonding with a new child. In 2012, the average weekly benefit was $497 with an average of 5.35 weeks per claim.

Other states have since passed legislation to make it easier for workers to take time off from work to care for family. In 2008, New Jersey followed California’s model and became the second state in the U.S. to make paid family leave available to all workers.

California can still improve the accessibility and affordability of paid family leave by funding outreach and education regarding rights to leave under PFL; assuring job-protection during leave periods; and improving wage replacement levels.

Excerpted from: Ten Years of the California Paid Family Leave Program: Strengthening Commitment to Work, Affirming Commitment to Family [PDF]

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