Using Sick, Vacation and PTO while receiving SDI and PFL

EDITOR’S NOTE: As of January 1, 2018, SDI and PFL claim benefit amounts have been increased from 55% to either 60% or 70%. The examples provided below still use the outdated 55% SDI/PFL information; however, the information remains consistent. 

It’s no secret that you’re going to try to stretch out every last minute and dollar out of your maternity leave. No shame in that game! One obvious method is to utilize any of your accrued sick, vacation, or PTO time to offset the reduction in pay. There are restrictions and regulations to doing this, so read on for more knowledge.

NOTE: The following applies to usage of sick, vacation and PTO while you are receiving wage replacements from State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Paid Family Leave (PFL). 

Sick Leave

The EDD treats sick leave as wages earned, so you can’t receive SDI or PFL benefits for any time you are receiving sick leave wages that are equivalent to your full salary. 

But wait, there’s a caveat to this! You can coordinate or integrate a portion of sick leave pay to make up the difference between the SDI/PFL benefit amount and your normal full wage. So, by combining 45% of sick leave with the 55% SDI/PFL benefit, you can theoretically get 100% of your normal gross weekly wages for the benefit period, or up until you’ve exhausted your accrued sick time. Here’s an example provided by the EDD:

An employee’s current gross weekly wage is $500. The weekly benefit amount from PFL is $275 [note: 55% of $500]. The $500 minus $275 equals a $225 per week wage loss. Consequently, the employer can integrate/coordinate a maximum amount of $225 per week in gross wages to the employee, resulting in the employee receiving the equivalent of his/her normal weekly gross pay.

Integrating/coordinating your sick leave will not affect your eligibility for SDI or PFL benefits. If you and your employer decide to go this route, your HR rep must notify the EDD that only 45% of wages are being paid, otherwise you may be denied benefits.

Vacation Leave

SDI: Vacation pay is not in conflict with SDI benefits, so your employer can pay you vacation time while receiving SDI benefits at the same time.

PFL without CFRA: If an employer requires that vacation be used during PFL, then vacation pay is in conflict with PFL and will need to be supplemented.

PFL with CFRA: If you are CFRA-eligible, an employer can not require an employee to use sick, vacation, or PTO while receiving PFL (as per CFRA reg 11092 b(3)). As such, vacation is not in conflict with PFL, and you’ll be able to receive both at the same time without it affecting PFL benefits.

Additionally for vacation and PFL, regardless of being CFRA eligible, an employer may require you to use up to 2 weeks of accrued vacation (but not sick) before receiving PFL benefits. This has no affect on your PFL amount once it kicks in.

Paid Time Off

While receiving SDI or PFL, PTO pay is considered the same as sick leave wages, if the payments are made as a replacement for sick leave when you’re out on leave.

This means that if you just accrue PTO, as opposed to sick and vacation time, then the only way to utilize PTO to offset pay reduction is to integrate/coordinate it with your SDI/PFL benefits.

Vacation/PTO/Sick Usage Situations

So, now that we’ve gone over how we can use vacation, sick and PTO time, let’s discuss common usage situations.

Unpaid CFRA time: In most traditional maternity leave scenarios (aka uncomplicated pregnancy with vaginal delivery), you’ll get partial pay for 16 out of the 22 weeks of maternity leave via SDI and PFL benefits (see timeline below). [Check out this post for a thorough overview on maternity leave].

FMLA/CFRA Eligible Maternity Leave

FMLA/CFRA Eligible Maternity Leave

As you can see from the timeline, the last 6 weeks of CFRA are unpaid. So, what to do? According to CFRA laws, you can chose (or an employer may require you) to use any accrued vacation time or PTO time during the unpaid portion of the CFRA leave. You can use sick leave during this time only if the leave is for your own serious health condition or any other reason mutually agreed between you and your employer.

SDI 7-day waiting period: There’s a mandatory 7-day unpaid waiting period that you have to serve before receiving SDI benefits. (Benefits are paid once the waiting period has been completed and all other eligibility criteria are met.) During the non-payable waiting period, you are allowed to utilize any form of wages paid by employer (sick, PTO, vacation, etc) to make up for the loss of wages.

As of January 1, 2018, there is no longer a 7-day waiting period for PFL claims.

How did I navigate the system, you ask?

I was able to coordinate/integrate over 100 hours of accrued PTO (my company only did PTO; no separate vacation or sick time) with 160 hours of company-sponsored leave pay (company perk), giving me full pay for about 14 weeks, 6 weeks partial pay, and 4 weeks unpaid during my 24-week maternity leave. Not too shabby, right?

How did you utilize your sick, vacation and PTO time during your maternity leave? Tell us about it in the comments.

10 thoughts on “Using Sick, Vacation and PTO while receiving SDI and PFL

  1. Xai says:

    Using the integrated method do I still need to report my wages to EDD? I’m only using 10 vacation hours/week as compared to my regular 40 hours but will it reduce my benefits if I report the 10 hours to EDD?
    Getting a hold of EDD is a pain so if anyone could help answer this question I would really appreciate it. Thanks.


    • I wouldn’t worry about report it to the EDD since it’s such a small amount. 10 hours over the course you’re receiving SDI benefits won’t surpass your normal salary, which is the main issue and reason to report. Plus, vacation pay is not in conflict with SDI benefits so you can receive SDI benefits at the same time without any issue. So, you’re fine either way!


  2. EG19 says:

    Hi, I’m currently on PDL. I plan on filing for SDI. My employer requires me to use my accrued 24 hours of sick pay. Do I need to report it to the EDD, or could this be considered my pay during the 7 day waiting period before SDI payments start?


  3. Merrin says:

    I have some PTO accrued which I have requested my employer to supplement during PFL. This may cover for example, 3 weeks out of the 6 weeks. My trouble is in filling the online claim form for PFL. For SDI, there was an option ‘Other’ and I specified ‘Integrate’ in the text box to indicate this. However in PFL online claim form there is ‘Other’ option but no textbox. How do I say I will only be receiving wages to supplement in a way I will not lose benefits?


  4. Pamela Berkowitz says:

    If a company is closed on a federal holiday (e.g. Independence Day), should employees who are currently on SDI get “Holiday Pay” for that day, even if not receiving their regular wages? If so, do they need to report this pay to EDD?


    • It’s up to your employer’s policy whether they will pay you holiday pay while on a leave of absence under PDL, FMLA, or CFRA. In my experience, most employers do not pay out holidays while an employee is out on LOA.

      If the employer’s policy is to pay holiday pay, then you would need to report that wage to the EDD.


  5. Roberta J Geddes says:

    I am on SDI. I’ve ask my employer to use my PTO hours (5) to cover my benefit payments through work while I’m out. Does this need to be reported?


    • Technically any wages received should be reported to the EDD. Typically, one should report if you’re supplementing PTO with SDI to bring you to a 100% for the entire length of SDI.

      However, if you’re only using 5 hours of PTO, you’re not in jeopardy of going over 100% of your normal gross wages. As such, I wouldn’t bother reporting.


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