Understanding Maternity Leave in California (2013 Edition)

by Robyn Roark on March 11, 2013

181140299903Today marks the start of my third, and final, maternity leave.  My baby girl is due in just a couple of weeks.  With each of my babies, deciding when to start leave, how long to take leave, and when to return has proven more difficult than actually getting pregnant.  This year, with an online tutorial created by our HR department and doing more research on my own, I decided that I should share what I learned.  By no means am I an expert on maternity leave in California.  I’m just passing on what I learned.

First, let me say that it is terrible that the most powerful country in the world doesn’t offer federal paid maternity leave.  With roughly the same number of men and women now in the workforce, it’s really a shame that we don’t offer paid leave for working parents. I’m fortunate to live in California where paid pregnancy disability and paid family leave are offered.  Second, I work for one of the largest software companies in the world. I do not work for a small business or the government – different rules apply for companies with less than 50 employees and government employees (that includes teachers).

There are four different types of leave available in California.  Some have pay, some don’t.  Some have job protection, some don’t.  You will literally have to piece together the types of leave to get time off with pay and with job protection.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

This is a federal act that offers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a rolling 12 months.  It is unpaid.  But it offers job protection. There are some exceptions, so be sure to do your own reading on FMLA.  This is open for both mothers and fathers. If your spouse decides to take CA PFL (below), he needs to tell H.R. that he is also taking FMLA.

California Pregnancy Disability Leave (CA PDL)

This is PAID leave (as long as you’ve paid into the State Disability Insurance) in Calfornia under the state disability plan for up to 4 months.  You get paid up to 55% of your salary up up a weekly maximum benefit cap (for 2013, that’s $1067/week).  Generally, pregnant moms are entitled to four weeks prior to your due date and six weeks after the baby is born (eight if you deliver by c-section).  There is no job protection, but you take this paid leave in conjunction with your FMLA.  Your doctor determines when you are disabled and when you are cleared back to work.  If you are having twins, the timelines increase so double check with your HR rep or the EDD for more info.

California Family Rights Act (CFRA)

This provides an additional 12 weeks of unpaid, but job-protected leave for baby bonding.  One big caveat, my fellow pregnant Californians: this leave can overlap with FMLA.  Once your doctor has cleared you to go back to work (generally 6-8 weeks post partum), CFRA kicks in.  This means that you most likely will not get 24 weeks of job-protection.  Depending on how much time you take off before the baby is born, when the baby is born, and the type of delivery, you may get a few weeks less of job-protected leave.

California Paid Family Leave (CA PFL)

This paid leave gives both mother and fathers (and adoptive parents) six weeks of paid leave up to 55% of your salary (with the same maximum cap as CA PDL).  Again, there is no job protection, but you can take this leave in conjunction with FMLA or CFRA.

So what does this mean for you and your maternity leave?

Let’s face it, we all just want to know how long we can be out on maternity leave and still get paid for it. In a nut shell, you can take off 4 weeks before your due date and 6-8 weeks of after the baby is born under CA PDL. Then tack on an additional 6 weeks under CA PFL.  That’s roughly 16-18 weeks of paid leave with job protection if you use the full benefit and assuming there are no complications in your pregnancy or delivery.

And for those of you feeling the pressure to take less time off due to Marissa Mayer only taking 2 weeks… I’d like to remind you that you are not the CEO of  Yahoo!  No one honestly expects you to take 2 weeks off.  You are entitled to take off the time… you’ve paid into the system, you’ve done the work, and those 16 weeks will go by in the blink of an eye.

I hope this helps you as you guide through your own planning for maternity leave. Congrats and good luck!

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