California Maternity Leave: What am I eligible for?

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’!

FMLA Eligibility 

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!

PDL Eligibility

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.

CFRA Eligibility 

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.

PFL Eligibility 

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:

FMLA/CFRA Eligible Maternity Leave

FMLA/CFRA Eligible Maternity Leave

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.

 

 

Maternity Leave Tip of the Day: 4

Maternity leave can be a very delicate time for a family. Aside from the profound new challenges that come with taking care of a newborn (seriously, you’d think evolution has done a better job at making newborns more self sufficient!), maternity leave can bring up financial concerns that may not have affected your family previously.

shutterstock_59080258

In California, eligible employees are entitled to a period of paid maternity leave, but the pay is partial at about 55%. [Get the full scoop on what you’re entitled to here]. Having your salary reduced to a little less than half of what you normally bring in can be shocking and can put stress on an already stressful situation.

Several months before you set off on maternity leave, do talk to your spouse/partner (or a professional financial advisor) about your financial situation so you know where you stand before the baby arrives. Once you get an accurate picture, you can work together as a family to save and cut out any unnecessary or “I won’t die without that” costs (i.e. Starbucks, downgraded or no cable).

Also, keep track of the checks you’re getting from disability (SDI) and paid family leave to ensure you’re being paid the correct amounts. You obviously don’t want to be underpaid (hell no!), but getting overpaid will create annoying issues with the Employment Development Department (EDD, the folks who pay you during maternity leave) later on.

Happy maternity leave!

If you’ve been in this situation where you had to assess your finances before/during maternity leave, tell us about it in the comments. What did you do to reduce costs and save?

 

Maternity Leave Tip of the Day: 1

File your State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Paid Family Leave (PFL) claims online at http://www.edd.ca.gov/disability/SDI_Online.htm. Not only will it be easier for you and your physician, processing times will be faster too. Triple Win!

I’m usually not a fan of government-sponsored tutorial videos (i.e. the mandatory jury duty video), but this one is surprisingly helpful.

Happy claim filing!

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.

 

Just a couple weeks shy of one year at your job? FMLA and CFRA are retroactive

Here’s a common scenario: Pregnant Pam doesn’t qualify for FMLA or CFRA when she starts her maternity leave 4 weeks before Little One’s due date, but while on leave she’ll reach her one-year work anniversary. Will she qualify for FMLA and CFRA at that point and be able to exercise those benefits? YES, she will!!

A group of very happy people isolated on white background

FMLA and CFRA are sneaky little bastards. They never fail to mention that in order to qualify for both laws you need to have worked for at 12 months and have worked at least 1,250 hours, but they don’t make it obvious that eligibility can be retroactive. That’s right, retroactive!

FMLA has always allowed for retroactive eligibility, but it’s not common knowledge because it’s noted waaaaay down at the bottom of the regulations. Bastard. (Full text on FMLA regulations here. Retroactive bit is regulation 825.110, paragraph (d).)

But, in all fairness, since FMLA and Pregnancy Disability Leave (a state law that provides employees the right to take job-protected unpaid leave for a pregnancy-related condition; and its eligibility is not dependent on how long you’ve worked at your company nor number of hours you’ve worked) run concurrently, you’re essentially getting the same benefits/job protection on PDL as you would FMLA.

Retroactive eligibility for CFRA is actually new. The California Fair Employment and Housing Council recently issued amendments to CFRA, which will go into effect on July 1, 2015, and one of the revisions is exactly that: an employee who was not eligible for CFRA leave at the start of a leave, can become eligible while they are on leave.  The actual amendment to the law is:

If an employee is not eligible for CFRA leave at the start of a leave because the employee has not met the 12-month length of service requirement, the employee may nonetheless meet this requirement while on leave, because leave to which he/she is otherwise entitled counts toward length of service (although not for the 1,250 hour requirement). The employer should designate the portion of the leave in which the employee has met the 12-month requirement as CFRA leave. For example, if an employee is maintained on the payroll for any part of a week, including any periods of paid or unpaid leave (sick, vacation) during which other benefits or compensation are provided by the employer (e.g. workers’ compensation, group health plan benefits, etc.), the week counts as a week of employment. (Full text on the new regulations is here.)

HR staff should be aware of these changes to CFRA, but it’s definitely worth noting as you finalize your maternity leave timeline so you don’t get gypped. Because if you’re messin’ with my maternity leave, you’re messin’ with my emotions!

There are other important updates to CFRA worth mentioning. Stay tuned for a post on that soon!

 

Not eligible for FMLA/CFRA: What to do?

Maternity leave in the United States already sucks as it is. (Side note: We are are only one of three countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid maternity leave – the US along with Papua New Guinea and Suriname.) But, what do you do if you don’t qualify for federal (FMLA) or state (like CFRA) leave laws because you don’t meet the required employment criteria? This predicament may leave many part-time working women or those new to their jobs in California in quite the pickle. Have no fear, you will be entitled to some level of job-protected and paid maternity leave.

First, here are the requirements for eligibility for both FMLA and CFRA:

  • 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 (about 25 hours per week) during the 12 months before the leave

Here’s a timeline for a mom who is eligible for FMLA and CFRA. You get 22 week of maternity leave (24 weeks if you have a c-section). Read this post to get the full 411 on maternity leave in California, as there are important things to know about pay, job protection, and health benefits.

FMLA/CFRA Eligible: 

FMLA/CFRA Eligible Maternity Leave

FMLA/CFRA Eligible Maternity Leave

If you are NOT eligible for FMLA and CFRA, you are still entitled to16 weeks of maternity leave (or 18 weeks if you have a c-section). See handy timeline below courtesy of The Legal Aid Society (full link here).

Non-FMLA/CFRA Eligible: 

Non-FMLA/CFRA eligible maternity leave

Non-FMLA/CFRA eligible maternity leave

Okay, let’s get into the nitty gritty and discuss job protection, pay, and health benefit continuation.

Weeks 1-10 (or weeks 1-12 for CS mommas)

Job Protection: Even if you are not eligible for FMLA, you’re still entitled to take Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL), which in itself is a state law that provides employees the right to take job-protected unpaid leave for a pregnancy-related condition. Unlike FMLA, eligibility for PDL is not dependent on how long you’ve worked at your company nor number of hours you’ve worked.

Getting Paid: While PDL gives you unpaid job protection for 4 weeks prior to birth and 6 weeks after birth (or 8 weeks after birth if you had a c-section), you’ll only be paid 55% of your wages through State Disability Insurance (SDI). The State of California requires all employees to pay into its SDI program through payroll deductions, so you’re most likely automatically eligible for SDI benefits. Confirm with your HR team to make sure or check your pay stub to see if there’s a line item that says something along the lines of SDI Deductions.

Health Benefits: While you are taking PDL, by law your employer must continue your health benefits for the entire duration of your PDL. You may be on the hook to pay the premiums, so be sure to confirm with your HR.

Weeks 11-16 (or weeks 13-18 for CS mommas)

Job Protection: Here’s the unfortunate tricky part. You won’t have job protection during the second half of your maternity leave. Boo! Sucks!

This is something you’ll definitely want to talk to your HR department about. Specifically, ask if there are maternity leave policies in place for those who do not qualify for FMLA/CFRA. Also, confirm that you’ll be able to use your PTO or vacation time to lengthen your job-protected maternity leave.

Getting Paid: As you’re recovering from childbirth, you’ll be partially paid (55% of wages) for up to six weeks under Paid Family Leave (PFL). As mentioned above, your job won’t be protected during this time – which blows, but at least you get some pay out of it….I know, it still sucks though. As a heads up, all employees in California – including those who do not meet the FMLA/CFRA requirements – who pay into SDI qualify for benefits under PFL.

Health Benefits: There technically is no law that requires your employer to continue your health benefits during this portion of your leave. Even with the PFL law, it doesn’t require your employer to provide health benefits while you’re receiving PFL benefits. I know; another major bummer. Definitely talk to your HR department about how you can mitigate this issue, like paying your portion (or more) of the premium, you may be able to negotiate some agreement with your employer.

I know it’s not much maternity leave compared to say Croatia, which gives moms an entire year of full pay. At least you’re getting some time to prepare and bond with your little one….even if you’re sleep deprived.

IMG_2832.2014-06-06_001612

If you’d like more information on California maternity leave or have questions, please email me at kiks16 [at] gmail.com.

Pumping at Work: Tips for making it work

Pumping is a labor of love. It takes a lot of time and effort, but you press on (or pump on) for the sake of your child. While everyone has their own timeline for how long they want to pump – or chose not to pump at all – here are some tips that helped me while I pumped at work.

First, let’s review the laws shall we….In California:

  • Employers must provide employees with a reasonable amount of break time to pump. (Labor code: 1030)
  • Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide
    employees with the use of a room or other location for pumping. This does NOT include toilet stalls or bathrooms (that is against the law). Also, it must be in close proximity to the employee’s work area employee. (Labor code: 1031)
  • If you feel that your pumping rights are being violated in any way, file a complaint with California Department of Labor.

Now, for the tips:

1) Get your hands on a quality breast pump. I use the Medela Pump In Style Advanced and really like it. I found it to be just as strong as a hospital grade pump, making it super efficient. Only downside is that it’s pretty loud.

PRO TIP: The health care law requires most health insurance plans to provide pumps for FREE. The only caveat is that your choice of breast pumps may be limited depending on your carrier. Before you go out and buy one, definitely check with your insurance carrier to see which pump they cover.

2) A hands-free breast pumping bra is your BFF. These babies are essential for multitasking. Just strap in, pump, and email on! I like the Medela brand – it’s nice and snug, keeping pump parts in place, yet still comfy. They tend to run small, so best to size up.

3) A cooler and ice pack makes for easy transportation of your liquid gold. This cooler, which includes two ice packs, by Munchkin worked great for me, but any ol’ cooler is fine.

4) An easy way to disinfect your pump parts will save you a lot of time and energy. I should know because I did it totally wrong by bringing a different pumping set for each session – that’s SIX (flange, pump, and valves) different pieces to wash every night! No bueno. Instead, put your used pump parts in a ziplock bag and store in the fridge in between session. As long as the parts are kept cold, the risk of contamination is very low.

5) Make pumping a part of your workday routine. Work can get very demanding and distracting. Before you know it, you’ve completely missed a pumping session and you’re engorged and uncomfortable. Grrrrreeeaaaat. Avoid these snafus by slotting your pump times into your work calendar. By blocking out times, not only will it help you stick with it, it will also let colleagues know you are occupado (busy).

1344643224146_1060723