California Maternity Leave

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*As a disclaimer, I am not an HR professional nor an employment law expert. The following is how I understood and applied my maternity leave benefits in California.

Hurray like me you’re pregnant, but now what… Not only is the prospect of growing, having and raising your little one is daunting, but what are your rights? How do you make sure you are protected and know what the state has provided for you. I wanted to write a post that helps share the information I’ve learned (because the process is crazy confusing) with you.

For any healthy pregnancy (i.e. no need for extended bed rest during pregnancy or reasons to be out of work due to complications after birth), at minimum, you get 22 or 24 weeks of maternity leave (22 weeks for vaginal delivery and 24 weeks for c-section). Not all of that time is paid or when you do get paid you’ll only receive 60%-70% up to a max of $1,218, however this does mean is that you get 22 or 24 weeks of job protection.

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This is the 22 week chart that is provided on the government website, if you get a c-section under PFL you get 2 more weeks paid and that is adds 2 more weeks to the end of your chart.

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I’m planning a 18 week maternity leave, with only two week before the due date, my due date February 4, 2019. I’ll start my maternity leave on 1/21, approximately 2 weeks before my due date. If I deliver normally I plan to be back to work in three months and saving the rest of my 4 unpaid CFRA weeks to use later in the year. I’ve modified the calendar as an example.

1) Starting your disability

First, decide when you want to start your maternity leave. Some take a week or two off before baby is expected to arrive, while others work literally right until the moment they are saddled up in the stirrups. Just know that your 40 week due date is a guesstimate, it is completely healthy to have a baby anywhere between 38-42 weeks. This article gives you the “Top 10 Signs of Labor.”

The 4 weeks before delivery is a “use it or lose it” situation. You don’t get to tack it on later, so if your individual situation allows for it USE IT. Just know that the first week is unpaid, so this is where you put any PTO/Sick time here. You also need to be in a financial situation that you don’t mind the cut 60%-70% cut pay, find out how much you will be paid during disability and paid family leave use this handy calculator.

State Disability Insurance: As a pregnant mom, you can receive up to four weeks of Disability Insurance (DI) benefits for a normal pregnancy before your expected due date. You can also receive up to six weeks (for normal delivery) or eight weeks (for Cesarean section) of DI benefits after your delivery to recover from childbirth. New moms with an active DI-related pregnancy claim will automatically be sent a form to transition to PFL. So if you’re a pregnant mom, start with a DI claim first and transition to PFL to bond with your new baby. To file for SDI you have to create an account on the EDD website.

Paid Family Leave: Only three states — California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island — currently offer paid family and medical leave. All five states programs are funded through employee-paid payroll taxes and administered through their respective disability programs. The state of Washington passed a paid family leave law in 2007, originally to take effect in October 2009, but the law was never implemented and subsequent legislation has indefinitely postponed its implementation. (See our paid family leave page for more details.)

2) You had your baby!

So if all goes according to play, you’ve had your baby on time. Once your baby is born, your PDL will continue for an additional 6 weeks for a vaginal birth or 8 weeks if you had a c-section; and you’ll continue to get wage replacement through SDI (through a check card that you will need to go to the bank to deposit).

3) Your baby is now 6 or 8 weeks: Now it’s time to bond

Once you’ve completed your 10 or 12 weeks of PDL (up to 4 weeks before birth + 6/8 weeks after birth) – or more importantly, when your doctor has certified you no longer disabled by your pregnancy or childbirth – the clock gets reset with an additional 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to bond with your baby. In order to be eligible for CFRA, you must meet ALL of these requirements:

  • Your employer employs at least 20 people within a 75-mile radius of your worksite

  • You have worked for your employer for at least 12 months (even on a part-time or temporary basis)

  • You have worked at least 1,250 hours (about 25 hours per week) during the 12 months before the leave

Your doctor will determine when you are cleared from disability. While this is typically 6 or 8 weeks after birth, should you have any complications – physical or mental (i.e. postpartum depression) – your doctor can certify an extension to your PDL, and your SDI benefits will be extended along with it.

During CFRA, you will be paid partial wage replacement through Paid Family Leave (PFL) at the same rate as your SDI, but here’s the kicker…only for 6 weeks. This means that while you have 12-weeks of job protection under CFRA, you’ll get partial pay for only 6 of those weeks. The remaining 6 weeks are unpaid, but you can apply any unused vacation or PTO time to offset being unpaid for the remainder of your leave. Also, you don’t need to take your 6 weeks of PFL all at once. You can break it up and take it in hourly or daily increments if you want. However, do note that CFRA stipulates that the minimum duration of CFRA leave is 2 weeks, or unless otherwise approved by your employer. You have one year to use CFRA protection.

4) Your maternity leave has ended and you’re back at work

Okay, what I’m about to say next is important! Your “return to work” (RTW) date is determined by when your CFRA ends. Just know that breastfeeding is legal in public spaces in all 50 states and Obama deemed it necessary for employers to provide women with non-bathroom areas for women to pump.

Here are some helpful questions to ask your employer’s HR department.

  • How much PTO/vacation/sick have you accrued?

  • Will you accrue PTO during your time off?

  • Will they pay you during holidays that happen during your time off?

  • What happens with 401k and if you need to stop it during your time off? Do you still accrue and does this effect the maturity date?

  • Make sure you know that your health insurance is covered, you shouldn't be put on COBRA. You might also have to pay back your office for health insurance, during your maternity leave.

  • Make sure you can use sick time during waiting period, as well as during leave if you have left over time in sick. in California it is legal for you to use sick time at your discretion, as well as vacation time during your leave. 

  • Make sure you know process of adding your baby to insurance and deadlines (most commonly the baby must be enrolled in coverage before the 30 days).

  • Talk to your doctor about your plan and make sure you are aligned on your plans, including pre-birth and the delivery.

  • if you guys have bonus or merit increases, make sure you know how you can get it (you would still be eligible) but may have to return to work in order to claim it instead of them sending it to you while you are out.