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  • Akiko Thayer

PFL benefits increase to 8 weeks starting July 1. Does that mean I get 8 weeks of protected leave?

Effective July 1, 2020, PFL extends the total claim timeframe from 6 weeks to 8 weeks. But, does that mean that employees automatically get 2 additional weeks of job-protected maternity leave?

I'll cut to the chase...the answer is NO.

I get asked this a lot and it's a fair question, especially given that it's called Paid Family Leave. Despite its name, Paid Family Leave (PFL) does NOT entitle you to a job-protected leave of absence. PFL only provides partial wage replacement while absent from work to bond with a new child*. As such, you would need to be eligible for bonding leave under CFRA or NPLA in order to have your job protected while claiming PFL. And, if you're not eligible for CFRA or NPLA, you may only be able to claim PFL for the duration your employer provides an additional leave of absence, if any, independent of CFRA or NPLA.

Let me show you what I mean....

Here is Jane's maternity leave timeline. She is eligible for PDL, FMLA and CFRA. Of note, the same timeline would apply if Jane were eligible for NPLA instead of CFRA for bonding. Jane has an uncomplicated pregnancy and vaginal childbirth with no post-birth complications. [NOTE: timelines can vary depending on individual circumstances.]

As you can see the last 12 workweeks of Jane's maternity leave (weeks 11-22), commonly known as "bonding leave," is protected under CFRA. Of those 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave under CFRA, the first 8 weeks are partially paid through PFL. However, the remaining 4 weeks of her CFRA will be unpaid, unless she uses PTO or vacation. And, even though those last remaining weeks are unpaid, her job will still be protected under CFRA until it exhausts after 12 weeks.

It's important to note that the increased 8-week PFL benefit does not extend the length of job-protected leave she is entitled to under CFRA. The length of CFRA - a maximum of 12 workweeks - has not changed. Only the duration of PFL, which runs concurrently with CFRA, has changed.

Now, let's look at Amy's timeline. Amy is not eligible for bonding leave under CFRA or NPLA, but is eligible for PDL. Amy also has an uncomplicated pregnancy and vaginal childbirth with no post-birth complications. [NOTE: timelines can vary depending on individual circumstances.]

As you can see, Amy is entitled to job-protected leave under PDL for the duration of her disability (weeks 1-10). But, once she is recovered from childbirth, her PDL will end and she'll no longer have law mandated job-protected leave entitlements.

By virtue of having paid into CA SDI taxes through payroll deductions, Amy is technically eligible to claim PFL following her period of disability. However, since PFL is only wage replacement and does not provide job protection, Amy would need to request an additional leave of absence (example: weeks 11-18) from her employer in order to take the time off to collect PFL.

Also, for the dads, partners, and non-birthing parents out there, you too are eligible for the increased 8 week PFL benefit duration. How PFL works in conjunction with law-mandated leave laws or an employer-provided leave of absence is the same as maternity leave. Unpaid job-protected leave for non-birthing parents will fall under FMLA and CFRA, running concurrently for a maximum of 12 workweeks, or under NPLA for 12 workweeks. Of those 12 weeks of CFRA/FMLA or NPLA, the first 8 weeks will be paid through PFL and the remaining 4 weeks will be unpaid. Also, similar to maternity leave, if the non-birthing parent is not eligible for any job-protected leave laws, they will need to request a leave of absence from their employer in order to collect PFL without losing their job.

*Note: Other reasons to claim PFL include needing to care for a child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner, as well as bonding with a minor child within one year of the child’s placement in connection with foster care or adoption.

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