How to calculate your SDI and PFL benefits amounts

Just as important as figuring out how much time you’ll be taking off for maternity leave is how much you’ll actually be getting paid. Like most things with maternity leave, it’s not super simple. Sigh. The calculations aren’t as cut-and-dry as getting paid a portion of your current salary. I’ll break it down for you below so that you have the full 4-1-1 on how the EDD works, how much you’ll get paid and when, as well as when you might need to strategize the timing. Because, seriously….

The base period

Let’s start here. In California, you are entitled to State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits of up to 55% of your regular base salary (up to a cap). The kicker is that you won’t be making 55% of your current salary. Instead, the benefit amount depends on what you were earning during the base period, which is the 12-month period ending just before the last complete calendar quarter you worked. Wait, huh? Here’s an example:

Let’s say you became “disabled” on May 15, 2014. The last complete calendar quarter you would’ve worked would be January 1, 2014 through March 31, 2014. Therefore, your base period for benefits would be January 1, 2013 – December 31, 2013.

So I don’t leave you with figuring all this out, here’s a helpful summary of all the possible base periods for 2015:

Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 7.30.52 PM
Strategize: Time your base period timing when you can

When figuring out the actual dollar amount you’ll receive from SDI and PFL, the state uses your highest-paid calendar quarter during the 12-month base period. If your salary never fluctuated during that time, then it won’t make a difference – you’ve earned the same amount each quarter.

But, let’s say you got a promotion and nice raise to match in January 2014. Taking that May 15 scenario above, your benefit amount will not include that salary bump since your base period ended on December 31, 2013. So, what can you do? You can adjust your base period to capture your highest earnings by delaying your disability claim start date. In this case, you’d have to postpone your disability claim start date to July 1, 2014 in order to make your base period run from April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014, which would now include that January 2014 bonus. Be mindful that you must file your claim within 49 days after becoming disabled, but if the difference is significant it’s definitely something to think about. Also, if you decide to do this, you must call the SDI or PFL office before submitting your claim.

Calculating the actual figure

Before getting into how the weekly benefit amounts are calculated, here’s a handy dandy SDI and PFL Weekly Benefits Chart courtesy of the EDD. If you’re like me and math isn’t your jam, check out the chart to find out what your weekly payout will be based on your highest earning quarter. BUT, of course, I’m highly suspicious and must know exactly how my monies are calculated! [Cue slogan: If you’re messin’ with my money; you’re messin’ with my emotions!]

Take your total wage earned in your highest quarter ($15,000) and divide by 91 (number of days in a quarter). You made $165/day during that quarter, but the state will only pay you 55% of that. So, multiply by .55 and you’ll get $91. Finally, multiply by 7 and you’ll have your weekly benefit amount of $635. Voila!

A heads up that the current cap is at $1,104/week or a wage of $26,070.92+ for the highest earned quarter.

Where’s my money? 

You’ll get paid every two weeks. The EDD will send you a debit card and they will automatically deposit funds to that account. You can either use the debit card like you normally would (swipe for purchases, ATM, etc) or set up an automatic transfer of funds from the debit card account to your regular bank account. Easy peasy!

Being out on maternity leave with a newborn can be stressful at times. Understanding your finances and how much you’ll be earning while out on leave ahead of time may help reduce some of the uncertainties that come with being a new parent.

 

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