The United States offers a pretty shitty maternity leave program. In fact, the U.S. is only one of three countries that doesn’t guarantee a paid maternity leave (the others are Papua New Guinea and Oman). W T F!
So, if you’re pregnant and just starting your maternity leave research, the first step is to understand what you are eligible for at the state and federal levels.
The five main “components” to California maternity leave — all of which have some sort of eligibility requirement — include FMLA (job protection), PDL (job protection), SDI (wage replacement), CFRA (job protection), and PFL (wage replacement). I’ll get into each one below, so read on, sista’!
The United States offers a federal maternity leave program called Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for a serious health condition (pregnancy is considered a “serious health condition”) and for the birth and care of your newborn child.
While FMLA is a federal program, you must still meet the following requirements:
- Your employer employs at least 50 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 during the 12 months before the leave
These eligibility requirements sadly leave out many women who work at small companies or are self-employed. In fact, two in five women don’t qualify for leave under FMLA, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research. SMDH!
For California residents, however, there is a state law called the Pregnancy Disibility Law, which provides women the right to take job-protected unpaid leave for a pregnancy-related condition. Health care providers will generally certify a pregnancy disability leave for 10 to 12 weeks for a normal pregnancy. The criteria, which are much more lenient than FMLA, are the following:
- Disabled due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, and
- Work for an employer who employs at least 5 employees
Because PDL covers many more workers, women who don’t qualify for job protection under FMLA may still be entitled to take unpaid leave for a pregnancy-related condition under PDL. Also, if you’re eligible for FMLA, your PDL leave will run at the same time as your FMLA leave because both laws cover pregnancy-related conditions.
State Disability Eligibility
FMLA and PDL do not offer wage replacements – only job protection. But, if you qualify for FMLA and/or PDL, you can typically claim State Disability Insurance (SDI) while you’re on FMLA/PDL leave to get partial wage replacements at around 55% of your total weekly pay.
To be eligible for SDI during your maternity leave you must have earned at least $300 from which SDI deductions were withheld during a previous period. To confirm this, look at your paycheck and there should be a line item noting this deduction. And, you must be under the care and treatment of a licensed doctor during your leave, which is obvi since you’re pregnant.
The great state of California provides another bonus for new moms with a state law called the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). CFRA provides 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protection leave for the birth of a child for purposes of bonding. (Note: FMLA/PDL covers pregnancy and childbirth recovery, whereas CFRA covers child bonding).
The eligibility requirements for CFRA are pretty much the same as FMLA.
Similar to FMLA, CFRA does not offer wage replacement. However, while you are out on CFRA leave, you are eligible for wage replacements under the Paid Family Leave (PFL) program.
The eligibility requirements for PFL are the same as SDI, so those covered by SDI are automatically covered for PFL. The wage replacement is the same at 55% of your total wages as well.
Okay, so what does this all mean?!
In a nutshell if you are eligible for FMLA and CFRA, you’ll get at least 22 weeks of maternity leave (24 weeks if you have a c-section). Here’s a timeline:
For an even more detailed rundown of California maternity leave, check out this post on how to Milk Your Benefits!
And, if you are not eligible for FMLA/CFRA, have no fear, check out this post on what your coverage looks like.