What should parents know about the California New Parent Leave Act?

Through the state’s paid family leave program, parents may receive partial wage replacement while taking off to welcome a new child to their families.

Adding a new child to the family is a joyous time for families, whether through a new birth or adoption. However, parents' ability to spend time and bond with their new child may be hampered by their need to return to work.

The state of California's Paid Family Leave program provides parents financial assistance as they welcome a new child into their families. Through the program, new parents may take up to six weeks of paid leave. The California Employment Development Department reports that a total of 284,218 people filed claims through this program in 2018 alone.

Qualifying life events

The two life events that qualify for California's paid family leave include bonding and caregiving. To qualify for bonding-based leave, workers must be new parents bringing a child into their families through birth, foster care placement or adoption. In addition to bonding-based leave allowances, the state's paid family leave program covers parents who must take time off to care for seriously ill children receiving at-home or in-patient care and continuing treatment due to illness, injury, physical or mental condition, or impairment.

Taking paid leave

Parents have up to 12 months after a child enters their family to use paid leave based on bonding. They may choose to take this leave all at once, such as when their children first arrive, or they may choose to split up their allowed leave over the course of the 12-month period. For example, a new father may take three weeks off at the time of his child's birth and save three weeks to take at a later date during his child's first year.

Getting paid while off work with a new child

While off work on paid family leave, program claimants may receive about 60 to 70% of their weekly wages. Higher-income earners may collect up to 60% of their salaries through the paid leave program, while lower-income earners may receive up to 70% of their salaries. To determine the amount of new parents' partial wage replacement payments, the state considers their base earnings prior to their claims. Based on their prior earnings, the state determines the quarter during the base period in which claimants had the highest earnings and divides that amount by 13. The sum of that calculation gets multiplied by 0.60 or 0.70 and rounded up to the nearest dollar in order to determine claimants' wage replacement rate.

Appealing a denial of benefits

In some cases, the EDD may deny new parents benefits through the state's paid family leave program. Those whose claims get denied may file an appeal within 30 days to an administrative law judge. Based on a review of the pertinent information, the EDD may uphold or reverse the initial determination. If reversed, parents may begin receiving partial wage replacement through the program. If the EDD upholds the decision, the appeal may get forwarded on to the Office of Appeals and a hearing before an administrative law judge.