Q. I understand that the state of California has a program that offers benefits to employees who require a leave of absence to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner. How does this program work?
A. An employee who desires to take time off to care for a seriously ill relative may be eligible for up to six weeks of Paid (PFL) insurance benefits.
The program is administered by the California Employment Development Department and an employee must be covered by State Disability Insurance (SDI) to be eligible.
An employee may request PFL benefits to:
- Care for a seriously ill parent, spouse, domestic partner, child or child of a domestic partner
- Bond with his or her new child, or the new child of the employee’s spouse or domestic partner
- Bond with a child in connection with the adoption or foster care placement of the child with the employee or the employee’s spouse or domestic partner.
There is a seven-day waiting period before PFL benefits will be paid to the employee. An employer may require an employee to take up to two weeks of earned but unused vacation leave or paid time off before he or she will receive PFL benefits. If an employer requires the use of one week of vacation, that week also will be the waiting period. The employee would be receiving PFL benefits on the eighth day of absence, assuming he or she submits an eligible claim.
If an employer requires the use of two weeks of vacation, the employee would receive PFL benefits beginning on the third week of absence. Without regard to the required use of paid vacation, an employee will receive a maximum of six weeks of PFL benefits in a 12-month period.
PFL benefits may be integrated with unused sick leave, which is treated as wages. The employee’s 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 an employer integrates the sick leave (i.e., pays the employee sick-leave wages in an amount constituting the difference between the PFL benefits and the employee’s full wage), the sick-leave benefits the employee receives will not affect the PFL benefits.