Maternity Leave Tip of the Day: 2

Not many people will admit this, but being out on maternity leave can get pretty lonely sometimes. You’re so used to being in the office, surrounded by people and all of a sudden you’re alone. Sure, you’re with a baby, but let’s face it – not much two-way conversation can be had there. So, here’s a tip – GET DRESSED in actual “you can be seen outside with that on” clothes. And no, yoga pants don’t count!

On the days that I put on regular clothes, I felt better. I strangely felt less isolated because I felt like I had a connection to the “outside world” and it helped me actually get out the door!

Regular clothes and eating lunch out like a normal person!

Regular clothes and eating lunch out like a normal person!

Which family members do FMLA and CFRA cover?

Super basic question, but I’ve yet to find a simple, easy-to-read answer on the World Wide Web. So, here ya’ go!

FMLA and CFRA both cover the following:

  • Spouses:
    • Husbands and wives
    • Legal, same-sex married couples. As of March 27, 2015, those in legal, same-sex marriages – regardless of where they live – have the same rights as those in opposite-sex marriages to federal job-protected leave under FMLA and CFRA.
  • Sons or daughters:
    • Biological child
    • Adopted child
    • Foster child
    • Stepchild
    • Legal ward
    • Child of a person standing in loco parentis, who is either under age 18, or age 18 or older and “incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.” Loco parentis is defined as someone with the day-to-day responsibilities to care for and financially support a child, or, in the case of an employee, who had such responsibility for the employee when the employee was a child. A biological or legal relationship is not necessary.
  • Parents:
    • Biological
    • Adoptive
    • Step
    • Foster father or mother
    • Any other individual who stood in loco parentis to the employee when he/she was a child. This does not include in-laws.

Additional coverage under CFRA is registered domestic partnerships. Effective July 1, 2015, CFRA leave may be taken to care for the serious health condition of a registered domestic partner, as defined by Family Code sections 297 through 297.5. If you live in California, where the FMLA law and the CFRA law differ, the most generous/less restrictive leave provisions must be applied. 

Additionally, there are couple other bonus coverage areas under California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) that are worth noting. In July 2014, PFL was expanded to also cover siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parent in-laws. Under the law, the term “sibling” is defined as “a person related to another person by blood, adoption, or affinity through a common legal or biological parent,” and “parent-in-law” is defined to include the parent of a spouse or domestic partner. Do remember though that PFL only provides partial wage replacement – and does NOT provide job security. So, if you’re thinking of taking leave to care for a sibling, grandparent, grandchild or an in-law, be sure to talk to your employer about job security.

You never know what kind of curve balls life will throw at you. I do feel some relief that federal and state leave benefits extend out to family – blood and non-blood – members. [Cue music!…]

Have you taken leave for an extended family member? Tell us about it in the comments below.

 

Paternity Leave: What about the dads?

Sir Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Group, rocked the paternity leave landscape earlier this week by announcing a new company policy that would allow fathers a full year of paid time off. While this new policy applies to only a certain level of employees at the UK-based company, it’s still pretty impressive…and super generous. Good work, Sir!

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Sir Richard Branson. Image courtesy of CrunchBase

If you’re a soon-to-be new dad, don’t worry, you won’t need to relocate to the UK to get some sort of paternity leave benefit. So, what are the benefits for dads in California?

FMLA/CFRA Leave for Eligible Dads 

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA), dads are eligible to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid family leave after the birth or adoption of a child. Unlike maternity leave, FMLA and CFRA runs totally concurrently.

Paternity leave for FMLA/CFRA eligible dads . Timeline courtesy of Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.

Paternity leave for FMLA/CFRA eligible dads . Timeline courtesy of Legal Aid Society Employment Law Center.

California happens to be one of three states (Washington and New Jersey being the others) that provides some pay for paternity leave through Paid Family Leave (PFL). As long as you’re eligible (pay into the state disability fund), you’ll be paid for 6 out of the 12 weeks at around 55% of your wages (up to a cap). California also hooks up dads through a labor law known as the Kin Care. Under this law, employers who provide sick leave for their employees must allow dads or spouses to use up half of their accrued sick leave in any calendar year to care for their partners. Using Kin Care doesn’t extend your time off, but it will provide an extra layer of compensation during that time.

You don’t have to use the entire 12-week FMLA/CFRA leave all at once. As long as your employer is cool with it, you can spread it out by taking it in chunks or reducing your weekly/daily work schedule. Only requirement is that you use it during the first year after your child is born or placed with you. Also, there won’t be a disruption in health benefits during the 12 weeks of paternity leave under FMLA/CFRA.

Couple of exceptions to mention

An employer can deny FMLA/CFRA leave if you are one of the highest 10% of earners at the company and can show that your absence would cause substantial economic harm to the organization. This exception actually applies to both men and women employees.

Another exception is if baby daddy and baby mamma work at the same company. Your work place may have sparked the romance, but you’ll only be eligible for a combined 12 weeks of leave between the two of you. [Mental note: don’t get involved with coworkers. I kid. I kid.]

Non FMLA/CFRA eligible dads

If you work for a small company or just part time, you’re likely not eligible for the 12 weeks of FMLA/CFRA leave. It’s definitely worth talking to your employer to see what sort of benefit or arrangement you can mutually agree to. California resident papas are still eligible to receive up to 6 weeks of PFL, but your job is not protected during this time.

Some extra thoughts 

The progressive thinking of company heads like Branson and Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, who provides paid paternity leave for 17 weeks, helps to shed light on the importance of paid paternity leave. I also hope through these paternity break-throughs it will help take the stigma out of paternity leave. It takes a village to raise an infant and us moms need back up! [kind of joking] But in all seriousness, the first few months of a baby’s life is precious and dads shouldn’t be denied of experiencing that amazing time.

Happy paternity leave!

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Did you or your spouse/partner take paternity leave? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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:

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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.

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