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                        California Paid Family Leave &

                         Family and Medical Leave Act

Overview

The California Paid Family Leave (PFL) provides benefit payments to people who need to take time off work to:

  • Care for a seriously ill family member.

  • Bond with a new child.

  • Participate in a qualifying event because of a family member’s military deployment.


If eligible, you can receive benefit payments for up to 8 weeks. Payments are about 60 to 70 percent of your weekly wages earned 5 to 18 months before your claim start date. You will receive payments by debit card or check — it’s your choice

PFL provides benefit payments but not job protection. Your job may be protected by other laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;

    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;

    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;

    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;

    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or

  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

                                                                                    Common California Paid Family Leave FAQ:

Q:  How do you you become eligible for California Paid Family Leave?

A:  You may be eligible for Paid Family Leave (PFL) if you:

  • Are a part-time or full-time employee of the public or private sector who has contributed to the State Disability Insurance program or a  self-employed Californian who has contributed to the Disability Insurance Elective Coverage Program at some point during the previous 18 months.

  • Have a loss of wages because you need to take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member, bond with a new child, or participate in a family member’s qualifying military event.

Q:  If I pay into State Disability Insurance but I don’t live in California, am I still eligible for benefits?

A:  Yes. Where you live does not affect your eligibility.

Q:  Can I receive Paid Family Leave benefits while working part-time?

A:  Yes. To use PFL benefits intermittently while working part time, check “yes” to question A13 on the Claim for PFL Benefits (DE 2501F) form or “yes” to question 6 on the Claim for PFL Benefits – New Mother (DE 2501FP) form. If filing online, check “yes” to the question, “Will you work at any time during your family leave?” You should also attach a detailed note to your claim form explaining which days you will work and the number of hours to be worked each day.

Q:  Can I opt out of the Paid Family Leave program?

A:  No. The State Disability Insurance (SDI) program and contributions are mandatory under the California Unemployment Insurance Code.

There are two exceptions:

  • If your employer or a majority of employees in your company apply for approval of a Voluntary Plan in place of SDI coverage. 

  • If you adhere to the faith or teaching of a bona fide religious sect, denomination, or organization whose creed, tenets, or principles require dependence on prayer for healing you may request an exemption. Complete and mail the Religious Exemption Certificate (DE 5067) to the address on the form. If you are granted this exemption, you will not be eligible to receive SDI benefits.


Q:  When can I begin receiving Paid Family Leave benefits?

A:  The EDD makes every effort to process your Paid Family Leave (PFL) payment within 14 days of receiving your complete initial claim. Your employer may require that you use up to two weeks of vacation leave or paid time off (PTO) prior to receiving Paid Family Leave benefits. Paid Family Leave benefits can start immediately after your vacation leave/PTO ends.

Q:  What constitutes a serious health condition for the purposes of Paid Family Leave?

A:  A serious health condition means an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility, or at home. This includes any period of incapacity (e.g., inability to work, attend school, or perform other regular daily activities) or any subsequent treatment in connection with such inpatient care; or continuing treatment by a physician or practitioner.

Unless complications arise, cosmetic treatments, the common cold, influenza, earaches, upset stomach, minor ulcers, and headaches other than migraines, are examples of conditions that do not meet the definition of a serious health condition for the purposes of Paid Family Leave.

Q:  A Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant is treating my care recipient. Can the treating Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant certify my claim for Paid Family Leave Benefits?

A:  Yes. A Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant can certify for all medical conditions within their scope of practice after they have performed a physical examination and collaborated with a physician and/or surgeon.

Q:  I have accrued employer-provided sick leave, vacation time, and/or PTO. Do I have to take this leave before becoming eligible for and/or applying for Paid Family Leave?

A:  Maybe. Your employer may require you to take up to two weeks of unused vacation leave and/or PTO before receiving Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits, but you should check with your human resources department first, since all employers are different. That said, your employer cannot require you to use sick leave before receiving PFL benefits.

You may be able to take unused sick leave and receive PFL benefits at the same time, but the combined benefits cannot exceed 100 percent of your regular earnings or your PFL benefits will be reduced by the amount of sick leave wages received.

Q:  Am I eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits if I care for a family member that is out-of-state or out-of-the-country?

A:  Yes. The care recipient’s treating physician/practitioner must provide medical certification establishing a need for care.

Q:  Can more than one family member apply for military assist benefits for the same military family member and event?

A:  Yes. More than one family member can file a claim to assist for the same event if the two claims are for different time periods and do not overlap.

However, more than one individual cannot be eligible for benefits at the same time for the same military family member and the same military event.

Q:  Can more than one family member apply for military assist benefits for different qualifying events?

A:  Yes. Eligible family members can file a Paid Family Leave claim for different qualifying events at the same time.

For example: The father files a claim to attend the military ceremony and the mother files a claim to handle childcare during the same period of time.

Q: Can workers with multiple family members serving in the military qualify for benefits to assist them in the same 12-month period?

A:  A family member can file for benefits to assist more than one actively serving military family members for any qualifying event for up to eight weeks total during the same 12-month period. However, the family member must provide new military documentation each time the military member being assisted changes.

Q:  Are school employees eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits during school breaks?

A:  School employees are not eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits if:

  • Full wages were or will be paid to the employee during the contract period when services were performed.

  • A period of family leave overlaps with a school break and the employee is not scheduled to work, does not have a history of working during the break, or does not have an additional employer.

  • The family leave period extends through the school break period.


However, if the employee is not receiving wages but would have been working for extra income if not on family leave (such as teaching summer school classes, tutoring, or other secondary job), then the employee may be eligible for benefits to replace the additional income.

Q:  How much money can I receive through PFL?

A:  If eligible, you can receive about 60 to 70 percent (depending on income) of wages earned 5 to 18 months before your claim start date for up to 8 weeks within any 12-month period. The length of time worked at your current job does not affect eligibility.

Q:  Can I choose how I receive my benefit payment?

A:  Yes. When you file your claim, you have the option to choose either the debit card issued by Bank of America or a check issued by the EDD.

Q:  How soon will I receive my first benefit payment after I submit my completed claim form?

A:  Most benefit payments are issued within two weeks after the EDD receives a properly completed claim online or by mail. By filling in your application completely and verifying that all information is correct, you help ensure your benefit payment is issued promptly.

Q:  How long can I receive PFL benefits?

A:  You may receive PFL benefits for up to 8 weeks within any 12-month period for care, bonding, or military assist claims. You can break up your eight weeks. You don’t have to take PFL all at once. If you’re a parent taking time off work to bond with a child, you may only receive PFL benefits during the first year after your child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

QL  Who pays for PFL?

A:  PFL is funded by mandatory payroll deductions from covered workers. This means that your previous paychecks helped pay for your own benefits and the benefits of millions of other eligible Californians.

Q:  How do I apply for PFL?

A:  You can apply for PFL by completing the Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits (DE 2501F) form online or by mail. 

Q:  My employer says they will terminate me if I don’t return to work, does PFL protect me from losing my job?

A:  No. PFL does not protect your job. It only provides paid benefits when you need time off work for family leave. However, your job may be protected through other laws, such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Q:  Can my employer terminate me while I am on Paid Family Leave?

A:  You can contact the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division or California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, who has responsibility over employment and leave issues, including employment termination during a family leave.

Q:  If I am terminated, will it affect my benefits?

A:  No. Termination will not interfere with your benefits as long as you continue to meet the other eligibility requirements.

Q:  My health benefits stopped while I was on Paid Family Leave. What can I do?

A:  The US Department of Labor (DOL) provides a temporary extension of health benefits at group rates for certain former employees through the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) program.

Q:  How long will it take for my claim to be processed?

A:  Your claim will be processed about 14 business days after the EDD receives your properly completed application.

Q:  When can I apply for PFL?

A:  All PFL claims must be completed and submitted no earlier than the first day your family leave begins, but no later than 41 days after your first day of leave.


PFL benefits for bonding must be claimed within one year of your child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement, so you should file your claim no later than eight to nine weeks before the anniversary of the child entering your family.

Q:  Can I receive Disability Insurance or Unemployment Insurance benefits while receiving PFL benefits?

A:  No. You may not receive Disability Insurance or Unemployment Insurance benefits for the same period in which PFL benefits are paid.

Q:  Can I receive workers’ compensation benefits while receiving PFL benefits?

A:  Yes. If your workers’ compensation weekly benefit amount is less than your weekly PFL benefit amount, you may be eligible to receive the difference.

Q:  Will I have to pay taxes on PFL benefit payments?

A:  Yes. You will receive a 1099-G tax form in January of the following year you received benefits.

Q:  What must I report to the EDD when I am receiving benefits?

A:   You must report:

  • If you have returned to part-time, intermittent, or full-time work.

  • If you have stopped providing care, bonding, or participating in military events.

  • The date of death of the care or bonding recipient.

  • Any wages received. 


Reporting this information ensures you receive the correct benefit amount and prevents an overpayment.


Q:  How do I report wages or that I have returned to work? Can I start collecting unemployment benefits because I am laid off or have had my work hours reduced, and then switch to a PFL claim?

A:  Yes. If you are out of work and then need to take family leave, you can apply for PFL, which can provide a higher benefit amount if you’re eligible. Contact Unemployment Insurance (UI) immediately if you file for PFL benefits. If your PFL claim is approved, your UI claim will be put on hold. If your family leave ends , you may return to UI as long as you remain unemployed and otherwise eligible. You will need to reapply to reopen your UI claim.

Q:  Can I start collecting unemployment benefits because I am laid off or have had my work hours reduced, and then switch to a PFL claim?

A:  Yes. If you have a family member who becomes sick while you are out of work, you can apply for a Paid Family Leave claim which can provide a higher benefit amount if you’re eligible. A medical certification is required to substantiate your family member’s illness. If you are approved for a Paid Family Leave claim, your Unemployment Insurance (UI) claim will be suspended. If you complete your Paid Family Leave claim and remain unemployed, you may then return to the remainder of your UI claim benefits as long as you remain out of work and otherwise eligible. You will need to reapply to reopen your UI claim.

Q:  How do I report the death of a care or bonding recipient?

A:  If the person you are caring for or the child you are bonding with passes away, report the death to the PFL office at 1-877-238-4373. You may also notify the EDD by writing to the PO Box address printed on the payment notice. Provide the care or bonding recipient’s name and date of death, and your name, address, and phone number so we can contact you with additional instructions. Benefits are payable through the date of death if otherwise eligible.

Q:  How do I pay for an overpayment?

A:  First, you must have received your billing notice. The Benefit Overpayment Statement of Amount Due (DE 8301R) form is a billing notice that is mailed to you each month. If you have not yet received this notice or have lost it, please contact the EDD at 1-877-238-4373.


Q:  I’m on PFL and my employer says that I have to pay for my own health insurance. Is this correct?

A:  The EDD does not have control over employer policies. PFL provides only partial wage replacement when you need to take time off work for family leave. You may have rights under other laws, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Q:  Can I pay into PFL if I’m self-employed?

A:  The EDD has a program for self-employed individuals and independent contractors, called Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DIEC). Premiums are based on the net profits you reported to the IRS on your Schedule SE for the previous tax year and are paid on a quarterly basis.

Q:  My employer does not participate in State Disability Insurance, is there a way I can participate?

A:  The California Unemployment Insurance Code exempts various groups from participating in the State Disability Insurance (SDI) program, which includes Disability Insurance and PFL. Among these are sole proprietors and partnerships with exempt employees, Indian tribes, and public entities, which includes most government and school district employees. For groups such as these to be covered, they must apply for and elect SDI coverage.

Employees that fall within these exempt groups may not participate in SDI as an individual. Group participation is required. 

Q:  Can I check the status of my PFL claim online?

A:  No. PFL benefit information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using the PFL Automated Telephone Information System. You will need a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to access your information. You create your PIN using the automated telephone system.


Q:  If my employee pays into State Disability Insurance but doesn’t live in California, are they still eligible for benefits?

A:  Yes, where your employee lives does not affect their eligibility. They may still be eligible if their job is based in California and they pay into State Disability Insurance (noted as CASDI on their paystub).

Q: Do Employers have to pay for Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave?

A:  No. Employers do not pay for State Disability Insurance (SDI) benefits. The SDI program is funded entirely through mandatory employee payroll contributions.

Q:  Does an employee have to work a minimum number of hours or days before becoming eligible for Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits?

A:  No. The law does not require a minimum number of hours worked or days employed to qualify for benefits. However, your employee must have earned at least $300 from which State Disability Insurance deductions were withheld during their claim base period.


Q:  Can employees receive Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits if they work part-time?

A:  If your employees work part-time and still have a wage loss due to a disability or family leave, they may receive benefits provided they are otherwise eligible. State Disability Insurance, which includes Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave is a wage loss benefit program, which means that individuals may be eligible for a portion of the benefit if they have a loss of wages and meet the other eligibility requirements.

Q:  Does Paid Family Leave have a waiting period for benefits?

A:  No. Paid Family Leave does not have a waiting period for benefits.

Q:  Can I require my employees to take all of their Paid Family Leave benefits at one time?

A:  No. The law does not require a minimum number of hours, days, or weeks that an employee must take Paid Family Leave benefits, it only established the maximum leave time of 8 paid weeks within a 12-month period.


Q:  Are employees required by law to use their leave when collecting Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits?

A:  Employees are not required to use vacation, paid time off, or sick leave when receiving Disability Insurance benefits. However, when the employee is requesting Paid Family Leave, the law gives an employer the option to require an employee to take up to two weeks of earned, but unused, vacation leave and/or paid time off (PTO) prior to receiving PFL. This option does not relieve employers of any collective-bargaining duties they may have with respect to vacation leave.

The law does not permit employers to require the use of sick leave instead of vacation.


Q:  Is an employee eligible for Paid Family Leave benefits if they have to provide care for a sick relative that is out-of-state or out-of-the-country?

A:  Yes. A claim may be submitted for Paid Family Leave benefits to care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner who is out of the state or out of the country. Benefits may be payable provided the medical certificate is properly completed, establishes a need for care, and the employee is otherwise eligible.

Q:  Can an employee opt out of the Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave program?

A:  No. The State Disability Insurance (SDI) program and contributions are mandatory under the California Unemployment Insurance Code. There are two exceptions:

There are two exceptions:

  • If you (the employer) or a majority of employees in your company apply for approval of a Voluntary Plan in place of SDI coverage.  

  • If your employee adheres to the faith or teaching of a bona fide religious sect, denomination, or organization whose creed, tenets, or principles require dependence on prayer for healing, they may request an exemption. They must complete and mail the Religious Exemption Certificate (DE 5067) (PDF) to the address on the form. If they are granted this exemption, they will not be eligible to receive SDI benefits.


Q:  What is the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance?

A:  The San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance (PPLO) in April 2016. The ordinance requires employers to provide supplemental compensation to employees who are receiving California Paid Family Leave (PFL) for purposes of bonding with a new child through birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

During the leave period, covered employers are required to provide supplemental compensation so that the PFL compensation plus the supplemental compensation equals 100 percent of their employee’s gross weekly wage. Employers with 50 or more employees had to comply with the ordinance by January 1, 2017; employers with 35 or more employees by July 1, 2017; and employers with 20 or more employees by January 1, 2018.

Q:  How soon will employee receive their first benefit payment from Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave after they submit their claim?

A:  Benefit payments are normally issued within two weeks from the date we receive a properly completed claim online or by mail. If we need additional information, more time may be needed to process their claim.


Q:  How does the EDD determine the weekly benefit amount?

A: The weekly benefit amount is calculated based on the calendar quarter with the highest earnings in the employee’s base period. The base period will include the employee wages paid approximately 5 to 18 months before the claim begins. The wages must be subject to the State Disability Insurance tax. The base period does not include wages paid at the time the claim begins.

Q: Can employee receive other benefits at the same time as Disability Insurance or Paid Family Leave?

A:  In general, employees may not receive Disability Insurance (DI) or Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits at the same time they are receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) or workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are exceptions:

  • If your employee’s weekly workers’ compensation benefit amount is less than their weekly DI or PFL benefit amount, they may be eligible to receive the difference between the two rates.

  • Your employees may receive Social Security disability at the same time as DI. You can learn more from the Social Security Administration on Social Security disability eligibility requirements.

  • Other benefits, such as employer paid benefits for baby bonding, may affect Paid Family Leave benefits.


Q:  How are Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave benefits affected when an employee receives sick leave benefits at the same time?

A:  Sick leave wages are treated as wages earned. Disability Insurance (DI) and Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits will be reduced by the amount of sick leave wages received and may render the employee ineligible for benefits depending on the amount of sick leave wages received and the employee’s weekly benefit amount.

If you integrate the sick leave (pay the employee sick leave wages in an amount which is the difference between the SDI benefit and the employee's full wage), the sick leave benefits received by the employee will not affect the DI or PFL benefit.


Q:  Can a company have a policy to integrate unused sick leave with Disability and Paid Family Leave?

A:  Yes. 

Q:  Are Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave benefits reportable for tax purposes?

A:  Disability Insurance (DI) benefits are not reportable for tax purposes with one exception: If your employee is receiving Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, becomes unable to work due to a disability, and begins receiving DI benefits, their DI benefits are treated as a substitute for their UI benefits. The DI benefits will then be reportable for tax purposes.

If DI benefits are reportable, EDD will send a notice to the employee with the first benefit payment explaining that the benefits are being reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In January, EDD will send the employee a 1099G form showing the reportable amounts paid (no more than the original UI maximum) and forward a copy of the 1099G to the IRS.

Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits are reportable for federal tax purposes, but not state tax purposes. EDD will provide the employee with a 1099G form and forward a copy of the 1099G to the IRS. PFL benefits are not taxable or reportable to the California State Franchise Tax Board.

                                                                                             Common FMLA FAQ:

If you have any further questions or need additional information about Paid Family Leave, please contact me for a FREE confidential consultation at (916) 333-4653 or Stephen_Fiegel_Esq@comcast.net.

 

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