Calculating Your SDI and PFL Amount (Updated Info)

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As of January 1, 2018, benefit rates for both SDI and PFL have increased from 55% to either 60% or 70%, depending on income. I’ll get into the nitty-gritty in just a bit, but for now, to get an idea of what your SDI and PFL benefits might be, check out this handy-dandy calculator. This calculator really should only be used to get an approximate figure since there are a number of factors (i.e. health insurance premiums deducted pre-tax) that can adjust your gross wage.

If you want to learn exactly how your benefit amount is calculated, read on. Otherwise, you can just rely on the calculator for an estimate, but you know what they say….”knowledge is power!”

First and foremost, to be eligible for SDI and PFL, you must have been or currently paying into CA SDI taxes through your payroll deductions. If you aren’t sure, take a look at your pay stubs and you’ll find deductions for something along the lines of CASDI, SDI, or DI. If you’ve got that, you’re golden. Moving on….

Your SDI/PFL benefit amount is based on the quarter with the highest gross wages earned within a particular base period. Your base period varies depending on what month you file for disability (see chart below).

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A base period covers 12 months and is divided into four consecutive quarters. The base period includes gross wages subject to SDI tax which were paid approximately 5 to 18 months before your disability claim began. Of note, the base period does not include wages paid at the time your disability begins. For a SDI claim to be valid, you must have at least $300 in wages in the base period.

To determine if you are eligible for benefits at 60% or 70%, your highest earning quarter is compared to the State Average Quarterly Wages (SAQW). Those who earned less than one-third of the SAQW will get the 70%; and those who earned one-third or more of the SAQW will get the 60%. One-third of the SAQW is $5,229.98. So, here’s how it breaks down:

  • If your highest quarterly earnings are less than $929, your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is $50.
  • If your highest quarterly earnings are between $929 and $5,229.98, your WBA is approximately 70 percent of your earnings.
  • If your highest quarterly earnings are more than $5,229.98, your weekly benefit amount is EITHER approximately 60 percent of your earnings OR 23.3% of the state average weekly wage ($281.21), whichever is greater.

Now, for some examples…

Example 1

Shelly goes out on disability on April 1, 2018, giving her a base period of January 2017 to December 2017. She had the following gross wages in each quarter:

  • January – March: $11,000
  • April – June: $10,000
  • July – September: $10,000
  • October – December: $9,000

Shelly’s highest earning quarter ($11,000) is greater than one-third of the SAQW ($5,229.98), so she is eligible for benefits at 60%. Then, her weekly benefit amount is calculated as follows: 

  1.  Find the weekly wages earned by dividing the highest earning quarter by 13 (13 weeks in a quarter): $11,000 / 13= $846.15
  2. Determine benefit rate at 60%: $846.15 x .6 = $507.70
  3. Compare the calculated benefit (found in step 2) to 23.3% of the state weekly average of $281.21. Since her benefit amount is greater than the SWA, she is eligible for the greater amount; therefore, her benefit amount is $507.70.

Example 2

Beth goes out on leave on March 1, 2018, giving her a base period of October 2016 to September 2017. She had the following gross wages in each quarter:

  • October – December: $4,500
  • January – March: $3,000
  • April – June: $5,000
  • July – September: $3,400

Beth’s highest earning quarter ($5,000) is less than one-third of the SAQW ($5,229.98), so she is eligible for benefits at 70%. Then, her weekly benefit amount is calculated as follows:

  • Find the weekly wages earned by dividing the highest earning quarter by 13 (13 weeks in a quarter): $5,000 / 13= $384.62
  • Determine benefit rate at 70%: $384.62 x .7 = $269.23

Example 3

Joe just had a baby and goes out on PFL leave on November 1, 2018, giving him a base period of July 2017 to June 2018. He had the following gross wages in each quarter:

  • July – September: $5,090
  • October – December: $6,000
  • January – March: $5,500
  • April – June: $6,050

Joe’s highest earning quarter ($6,050) is greater than one-third of the SAQW ($5,229.98), so he is eligible for benefits at 60%. Then, his weekly benefit amount is calculated as follows:

  • Find the weekly wages earned by dividing the highest earning quarter by 13 (13 weeks in a quarter): $6,050 / 13= $465.38
  • Determine benefit rate at 60%: $465.38 x .6 = $279.23
  • Compare the calculated benefit (found in step 2) to 23.3% of the state weekly average of $281.21. Since his benefit amount ($279.23) is less than the SWA, he is eligible to receive the greater amount; therefore, his benefit amount is $281.21.

Also, of note, for claims beginning on or after January 1, 2018, weekly benefits range from $50 to a maximum of $1,216. To qualify for the maximum weekly benefit amount ($1,216) you must earn at least $26,325.01 in a calendar quarter during your base period.

There you have it! Easy as 1-2-3…hmmm, maybe not? But for real, the next time your kid (or your kid in the future) says “math sucks; we’ll never have to use it in real life so why do I have to do it?,” here’s an example you can throw at them. #lifelessons

2018: Important Updates to Maternity Leave

HAPPY NEW YEAR! 2018…more like, two thousand – GREAT-een! (sorry, I had to do it!)

First, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, as well as a fantastic start to their new year! Second, I clearly need to make updating this blog a new year’s resolution. I’ve still been super active on spreading the good word on maternity leave info, but I’ve been doing it mainly on my Facebook Group, California Maternity Leave Support. But alas, new year, new goals – I’ll start updating this blog more often! Okay, with that said, let’s get down to some California maternity leave business….

2018 brings two major updates to the world of maternity leave for California residents.

1.Bonding leave extends to employers with 20+ employees:

Effective January 1, 2018, the California New Parent Leave Act (NPLA) requires employers with over 20 employees within a 75 mile radius to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

Previously bonding leave was limited to those working for larger employers with over 50+ employees. However, thanks to NPLA, employers with 20-49 employees are now subject to CFRA regulations applicable to leave for the birth, adoption or foster care placement of an employee’s child.

Note that all other CFRA eligibility requirements remain the same. This includes 1) having worked at least a year with your employer, and 2) having clocked in at least 1,250 WORKING hours during the 12-month period immediately prior to the date the leave is to commence.

It’s important to note that NPLA only affects the “baby bonding” component of CFRA. As such, an employee eligible for NPLA is not entitled to other forms of leave provided by the CFRA. For example, if you need to take leave for your own serious health condition under CFRA, the 50+ employee requirement for CFRA eligibility still remains.

Further, NPLA has no effect on FMLA or its eligibility requirements (i.e. the 50+ employee requirement for FMLA remains the same). But, remember, in California, in the context of maternity leave, FMLA really doesn’t matter since Pregnancy Disability Leave (a state law) supersedes FMLA. Plus, PDL is more generous than FMLA, giving pregnant women UP TO 17.3 weeks of leave vs. 12 weeks under FMLA, and PDL is available to those who work at companies with 5+ employees. FMLA, if applicable, will simply run in the background of PDL.

So, what does this mean for ME and my maternity leave?

This means that if you work for a company with 20+ employees and was previously not allowed in to the “CFRA club” (untz untz untz), you are now covered under NPLA. And as a result, you’ll get an additional 12 weeks to bond with your baby after you’re done with the PDL portion of your leave. At minimum, here’s what your leave timeline would look like:

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Thanks NPLA and California for giving those hard-working mammas and pappas at smaller businesses some more QT with their bebes!

For more info on maternity leave 101, check out this post.

2. Increases to California SDI and PFL Benefit Amounts

The second update is the increase to SDI and PFL benefit amounts. As of January 1, 2018, thanks to AB 903, wage replacement rates for SDI and PFL increased from 55% to:

  • 70% for those who earned less than one-third of the state’s average quarterly wage during the base period (prior four quarters); OR
  • 60% for those who earned one-third or more of the state’s average quarterly wage during the base period (prior four quarters).

I’ll be doing a blog post on how to calculate your benefit amount soon, so stay tuned. Further, the bill also eliminated the 7-day unpaid waiting period for PFL. Note, the waiting period for SDI remains intact.

So, there you have it! Some nice updates to your maternity leave plans!

Holla’ if you have any questions or join my Facebook Group!