In California, they’re putting the modern family in “family leave”

California just made it easier for families to care for each other - by recognizing just how different each family can be. (Photo: Moogan/Flickr Creative Commons)

California just made it easier for families to care for each other – by recognizing just how different each family can be. (Photo: Moogan/Flickr Creative Commons)

Before October 1st California employees could only take paid family leave for a seriously ill spouse, domestic partner, child or parent. Of course the reality is that a modern family’ often includes extended family members.

Now, California can celebrate being on the forefront of paid family leave legislation yet again: By signing SB 770 into law, California Governor Jerry Brown has expanded paid family leave coverage to include sick siblings, grandchildren, grandparents and parents-in-law.

California’s program provides up to six-weeks of partial wage replacement to workers, funded via the State Disability Insurance (SDI) system. Numerous studies show that for a vast majority of employers, paid family leave has either had a positive effect (or no noticeable effect) on business profitability, productive and employee morale.

The paid family leave expansion had broad bi-partisan support, and was backed by the Alzheimer’s Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Retired People and the California Work and Family Coalition.

“The governor signed SB 770 so that workers can care for extended family members without jeopardizing their economic well-being,” said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown.

It’s time for Washington legislators to set their own example and prioritize the well-being of our families by implementing and expanding our own Family Medical Leave Act this upcoming legislative session.

You can read more about our work on this policy issue and get Washington updates here.

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]

New evidence shows CA paid family leave is good for workers and employers alike

Via Washington Policy Watch:

New research shows workers and families are benefiting from California’s paid family leave law – and most employers say it’s had either positive effects or no impact on their business.

Under California’s first-in-the-nation paid family leave (PFL) program, enacted in 2004, workers who become new parents or care for an ill family member can take up to 6 weeks of partially paid leave (55% of a worker’s weekly pay).

Researchers at Columbia University who analyzed the effects of the PFL program on the labor market and new mothers’ use of leave found PFL doubles the average length of leave for new mothers – from 3 weeks to at least 6 weeks.

These effects were most evident among mothers from economically disadvantaged groups – including non-college educated, unmarried, Hispanic, and Black moms – whose average length of leave increased from 1-2 weeks to 4-7 weeks. The research also suggests that PFL increases work hours and wage income for those mothers who returned to work.

On the employer’s end of the experience, another study found business owners’ fears of increased costs and abuse of the policy were unfounded. Six years after California implemented PFL, more than nine in ten employers reported they were not aware of any instances of abuse of the program. Small businesses were less likely than larger companies to report negative effects. Other findings from employers include:

  • 89% reported “positive” or “no noticeable” effects on productivity.
  • 91% reported “positive” or “no noticeable” effects on profitability or performance.
  • 96% reported “positive” or “no noticeable” effects on turnover.

Researchers also found that PFL increased retention among workers in low-quality jobs (paying less than $20 per hour and providing employer-paid health insurance): 83% who used PFL returned to the same employer, compared with 74% of those who did not use PFL. There are also positive effects on workers’ ability to care for a new child and arrange child care, and increased duration of breastfeeding for all new mothers who used PFL.

Locally, the Washington Family Leave Coalition is working to ensure people in our state also have access to paid leave. The state’s Family Medical and Leave Insurance program was established in 2007, and is currently scheduled for implementation in 2015.