Simple Complete Guide on Maternity Leave Benefits in California 2023

Issues surrounding maternity leave are of interest to any working expectant woman. Therefore getting all the information you need about maternity leave in your state is very important to help you plan for your leave.

The information addresses issues such as how long a maternity leave you will get, if you will a paid, half paid, or non-paid maternity, and for long? If you are guaranteed for a job after your maternity leave, among others.

However, these issues are more directed by the law than your employer, and they vary from location to location. Different states have different laws surrounding maternity leave.

If you live in California and you are an expectant working mom, you would be interested to know what the law says about maternity leave. Read more to find out the most critical things that you need to know about maternity leave in California in 2023.

What is Maternity Leave

Maternity leave is a law provision that allows you time off work after you have had your child. It allows you to recover from the birthing process and help you get back in shape for work again. Further, it allows you to spend some time with your infant child before you can go back to work.

Different states offer different terms for maternity leave. While the states provide the minimum, your employer may be willing to add you more time and pay for your maternity leave.

What Maternity Leave in California Covers (2023)

One of the things you need to know about maternity leave in California is that it has four programs, which are in place for pregnancy and early child development protections. 2 of these programs are unpaid and offer job and insurance protection (FMLA & CFRA).

1. FMLA in California- What Expectant Mothers Should Know

  • FMLA, along with PDL and CFRA, is a law that makes it illegal for your company to fire and replace you for taking time off during your maternity leave 
  • FML is offered at 12 weeks’ job-protected unpaid time. Interestingly, in California, this is hardly ever really used (it gets marked, but it’s not the primary service used) because other programs overtake it.
  • An important thing to know for pregnant mothers in California is that you’ll need to work with your employer to officially register your FMLA time.
  • All expectant women in CA should note that you do not have to take your leave all at once. However, the condition is you can only use this baby bonding leave in the first 12 months of their birth.
  • Another important aspect critical to know is that FMLA only covers employers who aren’t seasonal and have over 50 employees. Nonetheless, all schools and government agencies, regardless of employees, are covered under FMLA.

2. Pregnancy Disability Leave in California- What Expectant Mothers Should Know 2023

  • PDL( Pregnancy Disability Leave ) is unpaid leave, contains job protection, or at least continuation of Healthcare Benefits. PDL can run concurrently with FMLA, meaning it may use the time for both at the same time.
  • In California, a “normal pregnancy” will be granted 4 weeks pre due date and 6 weeks post vaginal delivery under PDL, for a total of 10 weeks. If you deliver a C-section, you get 8 weeks post-delivery. After that, you can go straight into paid family leave for 8 weeks or whenever your doctor signs off that you’re no longer disabled due to pregnancy/childbirth. THEN when you’re not disabled, you can take up to 12 weeks of CFRA to bond with the baby.
  • However, you need to have your doctor file this for you. What you should know about PDL in California is that you are automatically approved for disability at 36 weeks pregnant, which you can use to get early maternity leave.  All pregnant women qualify for SDI at 36 weeks gestational age. This means you can take leave starting at 36 weeks without a doctor’s note.
  • The only requirement for PDL is that your employer has 5 employees. It is hence a catch-all for those pregnant women working for smaller businesses so that they aren’t penalized for being in a non-corporate/non-big company role.
  • Another requirement to benefit from pregnancy disability leave in California is to have paid into the state SDI system, which should be automatically taken from your paystub and marked as such.
  • It is important that all pregnant moms in California know that they have to submit the EDD application for disability insurance. The submission of the claim should be no earlier than nine days after the first day that disability begins but no later than 49 days after the disability begins, or you may lose benefits. SDI has a 7 day waiting period of “lost wages” before it kicks in.
  • What expectant mothers in California should know is that they are not allowed to be working while under PDL. Legally you aren’t supposed to be working on disability, or you lose it. No part-time, no checking emails.
  • Your health benefits must be maintained during any period of unpaid leave under the same conditions as if you continue to work. You are still required to pay any employee portion of the premiums.
  • You must be reinstated to the same job with the same pay, benefits, and terms and conditions of employment on your return from PDL-protected leave.
  • If your leave extends beyond the end of your PDL entitlement, you do not have return rights under PDL.
  • If you do not return to work following leave, you may be required to reimburse your company for your share of health insurance premiums paid on your behalf during your leave.

Is your Maternity Leave in California Paid for?

  • One of the key thing that pregnant women should know about maternity leave in California is the extent to which one will be paid. PDL is covered by CA State Disability Insurance for 60-70% wage payment if you apply for it.
  • You can take up to 17 weeks 3 days of pregnancy disability leave(should you need it). But it is unpaid for but offers job-protected and you keep benefits.
  • CFRA – 12 weeks is also unpaid. While CFRA is unpaid, it does hold your job and your insurance coverage.
  • PFL grants you 6 weeks of pay at 60% time for baby bonding, which can stack with CFRA to get you some of that time paid. You have to submit your CA EDD application for paid family leave and baby bonding. Submit your claim no earlier than the first day your family leave begins, but no later than 41 days after your family leave begins, or you may lose benefits. Your Paid Family Leave can be taken at any time within the first year of the child’s life. Many working women take it right after SDI ends.
  • In addition, payment will depend on your employer. Larger companies have Short Term Disability (STD) policies included in their benefits that cover a portion of your pay while out on leave. Some cover 100%, some cover 50%, and it all depends on company policy. Your employer will probably cover the difference between your regular wages and what you get from the state for 12 weeks.

Read: What to do if you cant get a Paid Maternity Leave

The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) in California

  • What you should know about maternity leave in California is that it has its own version of FMLA. CFRA is the California version of FMLA. It, however, doesn’t consider pregnancy to be a qualifying condition but does consider baby bonding to be a qualifying condition.
  • Expectant mothers in California should know that you can stack your CFRA (12 weeks unpaid) to whatever your total PDL time was.
  • Including disability leave, while pregnant, you can get a maximum of 5 months paid leave.  

What Maternity Leave in California does not Cover (2023)

  • Only about only 3 months of the maximum 5 months paid maternity leave are covered under the 12 weeks of job-protected leave.
  • Suppose you feel that the time that you are getting for maternity leave is little for you and your baby. You could try to use accrued sick time if you had any before your due date.

Expert Secrets & Tips to Get a Longer Maternity Leave from Employer/HR

  • Set up a meeting so you can discuss things on a one-on-one interface. It will be easy to have a conversation with a real person to understand the options that you have. You will be able to negotiate your way for a longer maternity leave once you are due.
  • Ask all questions that you have. It will also make it easier because you will have a chance to ask follow-up questions. Your questions should cover all the areas that you are not sure how it works, including the company policy on maternity leave and related benefits. Ensure you ask about how much total time off work you can get for your maternity leave.
  • After you’re done with the in-person discussions from above, get answers in writing. The breakdown you need are the laws that give you the right away from work with job protections and programs that give you wage replacement, and then your company paid leave. It is important to have it before you start your maternity leave to ensure all the time you take is well documented and approved by employer.
  • Your employer may offer other voluntary benefits, so ask about them. Pregnancy is a protected class, lay out your plans and sees what your employer has to offer. Propose to both your boss and HR together, in an email, what your leave plans are and then see their response. You may be surprised to see that your employer is willing to give you a longer than usual maternity leave.
  • Put together proposals of who on the team takes over what and how key projects that fall under you will be done to get your employer to meet your needs. By demonstrating that your work will be adequately covered in your absence, you will be able to negotiate for a longer maternity leave.
  • There are many things you can do during your maternity leave.

Related Articles

How to Decide if you Need an Early Maternity Leave

Things to do during your Maternity Leave

EDD website

See the Department of Labor’s website here

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