Back-to-back pregnancies: What happens to my maternity leave?

In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, what better topic to cover than IRISH TWINS!


Here’s the scenario….what happens when a California mother delivers two babies within the same year (otherwise known as Irish Twins!)? What leave laws will the mother be entitled to in this situation? (Shout out to the reader who posted this question!)

First off, Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) is per pregnancy. So, no matter how soon you become pregnant with Baby #2 you will be fully entitled to PDL. PDL provides up to 17.3 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for the purpose of pregnancy, childbirth, and other related conditions. As emphasized in my How To Milk Your Benefits post, you don’t get all 17.3 weeks of PDL. The actual duration of your leave is for however long your doctor certifies your disability. The “standard” duration of disability for pregnancy and childbirth is 4 weeks before the estimated due date and 6 weeks after birth for a vaginal delivery or 8 weeks after for a c-section. If you experience any complications during your pregnancy and/or after birth, your doctor can certify an extension(s) beyond the “standard” duration.

Okay, so far pretty straight forward….you get PDL because you’re pregnant again. Woot woot! But, now the trick(ier) part. Assuming you work for a CFRA-eligible employer, the big question here is whether you would be eligible for CFRA bonding leave for Baby #2. The answer to this depends on how your employer resets the clock on CFRA.

As a reminder, the eligibility requirements for CFRA are as follows:

  • Must work for an employer with 20+ employees within a 75 mile radius.
  • Have worked for the employer for at least one year
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours within the past year

Also – as a reminder – a CFRA-eligible employee will get an additional 12 weeks of unpaid job protected leave for the purpose of bonding with baby following PDL.

There are 4 different ways an employer can reset the clock on CFRA. Employers may select any of the following methods, but the method must be applied consistently and uniformly for all employees.

1. The Calendar Year 
Pretty self-explanatory here. You get 12 weeks of CFRA each calendar year (January 1 through December 31).

2. Any Fixed 12-Months
Also pretty self-explanatory. You get 12 weeks of CFRA each fixed year (i.e fiscal year, employment anniversary date, etc).

3. The 12-Month Measured Forward
The 12-month period is measured forward from the first date an employee takes CFRA. Then, the next 12-month period would begin the first time CFRA leave is taken after completion of the prior 12-month period. Sounds complicated, but it’s not….

Example: If you took CFRA leave for Baby #1 on June 1, 2017, then the next 12-week period would begin on June 1, 2018.

4. The “Rolling” 12-Month Period Measured Backward.
This is the most complicated method used. The 12-month period is measured backward from the date an employee uses any CFRA leave. Under the “rolling” 12-month period, each time an employee takes CFRA, the remaining leave entitlement would be the balance of the 12 weeks which has not been used during the immediately preceding 12 months. Ummm, huhhhh? 

Example: You request to take CFRA leave for Baby #2 on June 1, 2018. Your employer looks back 12 months from June 2, 2017 through June 1, 2018 to see if any CFRA has been taken. As long as you haven’t used any CFRA time during that period, you would be eligible for the full 12 weeks of CFRA on June 1, 2018. If you’ve used some CFRA during that time, you would be eligible for just the remaining balance.

Also – super important – regardless of the method used, you still need to meet the 1,250 hours worked requirement again prior to the start of your leave. If you’re taking CFRA leave immediately following PDL, the 1,250 hours must be met preceding your PDL; and if there’s a gap between PDL and CFRA, then the 1,250 hours must be met immediately preceding your CFRA leave.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where you might have recently taken a CFRA leave of absence – whether it be because you were bonding with a baby or you were using CFRA to care for a spouse, parent or ill child – check with your employer to see which method they use.

Note, PDL and CFRA provide unpaid job protection. To find out more about wage replacement programs – SDI and PFL – check out this post.

Calculating Your SDI and PFL Amount (Updated Info)


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).

Screen Shot 2018-01-18 at 11.30.52 AM

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 (Update: sorry, this Facebook group is no longer active). 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:

Screen Shot 2018-04-10 at 9.56.18 PM

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!

If you have questions regarding California maternity leave, or would like more information on how I can provide individualized support to help maximize your maternity leave, please visit Maternity Leave 411.





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.


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 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

UPDATE: As of January 1, 2018, SDI and PFL rates have increased from 55% to either 60% or 70%, depending on income. Read this updated post instead of the below!

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. [EDITING TO ADD: The EDD no longer allows claimants to chose a different base period, unless for special circumstances such military service.]

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.