AP/Long Beach Press Telegram Examines New California Paid Family Leave Law
The AP/Long Beach Press Telegram today examines the state's new paid family leave law, which Gov. Gray Davis (D) signed on Monday (Chavez, AP/Long Beach Press Telegram, 9/26). Under the law, which will take effect in 2004, the state disability insurance program will have to pay "partial replacement compensation" for as many as six weeks when an employee leaves work as a result of a "temporary family disability." The law also allows employees to take an additional six weeks of unpaid leave. Employees who qualify will receive benefits to care for a "seriously ill child, spouse, parent or domestic partner or to bond with a newborn infant." The law requires a doctor to verify a serious illness or a new child before an employee can take a leave. In addition, the legislation requires employees to take two weeks of unused vacation time before they receive the paid leave and to provide verification that no other family member can serve as a caregiver. The legislation provides employees with payments that range from $50 to $490 per week and caps payments at 55% of earnings for the period of leave. The law requires employees to cover the full cost of the program (California Healthline, 9/24). "We believe that this is an important step forward for the country and its workers, many of whom have to choose between pay and taking care of their loved ones," Bill Powers, legislative director for the Congress of California Seniors, said. The Alzheimer's Association in Los Angeles also supports the law. "Families who care for their loved ones at home are coping with enormous emotional responsibility and the additional financial responsibility of providing in-home aid," Peter Braun, executive director of the association, said (AP/Long Beach Press Telegram, 9/26).
According to Ventura County Star editorial, the state's new paid family leave law will help employees "forced to make a choice between their jobs and their families, often under the most trying of circumstances." The editorial adds that the California law addresses some problems in the 1993 Federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Under the federal law, employees may take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. However, the federal law does not apply to businesses with fewer than 50 employees, which makes only about 57% of the nation's workforce eligible for the leave, the editorial states. The editorial also cites a congressional study that found about 67% of those eligible cannot afford to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave. In addition, although business groups have opposed the state law, many companies that have "voluntarily embraced" paid family leave have "learned through experience that family-friendly policies are plain good business, enhancing recruitment and retainment and engendering employee loyalty," according to the editorial. The editorial concludes, "Since no one can predict the future, who knows, maybe even the opponents of this bill will someday be thankful for the option of being able to take paid family leave" (Ventura County Star, 9/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.