Back to Next Generation

California Shows Leadership on Paid Family Leave Once Again

Last week, we celebrated the passage of California SB 770 (Jackson) in the California Assembly, and will watch it very closely as it makes its way to the Governor’s desk in a few weeks. The California Work & Family Coalition, a project of Next Generation, supported this bill because it will help ensure that workers don’t have to choose between maintaining an income and caring for a loved one. We think this makes all the sense in the world.

SB 770 extends the definition of family under Paid Family Leave (PFL), to include seriously ill siblings, grandparents, grandchildren and parents-in-law. The passage of Paid Family Leave is of historical significance for California—in 2002, California became the first state in the nation to enact the comprehensive Paid Family Leave insurance program through an expansion of the State Disability Insurance (SDI) system. Other states have followed suit, with the most recent being Rhode Island.

Implemented in 2004, California’s PFL provides up to six weeks of partial wage replacement to workers who must take time off work to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with a new child. Nearly all private employees in California contribute a portion of each paycheck to SDI and a small portion of those contributions fund the PFL program. Paid Family Leave is entirely worker-funded.

While initially there were some critics of Paid Family Leave who worried that this would impact employee productivity and their bottom line, opinions are shifting now that a few years have passed and we have some new data . According to a 2011 survey, the vast majority of employers reported that Paid Family Leave had either a positive or no noticeable effect on business profitability, productivity, and employee morale. Turns out that providing working families with a stress-free system by which they can manage their family needs and meet their work responsibilities is good for everyone.

Much like the rest of the country, Californian workers have diverse living arrangements and family needs.  But there are some key differences that caused the Coalition and other partners to support this extension of PFL. California has the second highest percentage of multigenerational households in the country. Also, nearly half of Californians are single and their closest relative may be a sibling. A recent study of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients showed that nearly 40 percent of caregivers were not covered by the definition of family in California’s PFL law. Another study found that nearly 20 percent of primary caregivers for chronically disabled individuals are neither the spouse nor the child of the person receiving care.

As I mentioned earlier, SB 770 is now destined for the Governor’s desk, and our Coalition partners are hopeful for a signature.

Thankfully, the bill has a lot of support and no opposition on record, in large part because the bill does not represent any substantial cost to the state—it’s funded by a robust SDI system—and won’t add any undue financial burdens to employers or employees. Currently care claims represent 10 percent of all PFL claims, so workers simply aren’t expected to make these claims in record numbers and threaten the economic stability of the system.

I’ll keep you posted on new developments with SB 770, but encourage you to watch it closely as well. History is in the making once again.

Join the Conversation