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Californian workers to get two more weeks of paid family leave, starting this summer

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Starting this summer, workers who need to take paid family leave could be eligible for more time away from the office.

The state’s paid family leave program — originally enacted in 2002 and first in the nation — is set to be extended to eight weeks from six, effective July 1, as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s $222 billion budget for 2020-2021. Newsom signed the bill, known as SB 83, in June.

The leave program provides benefits to individuals who take time off work to bond with a new baby or to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent or registered domestic partner, according to the state’s Employment Development Department.

In addressing the leave extension in the budget, Newsom stated: “This increase will move California two-thirds of the way to achieving the goal of six months of paid family leave to support parents bonding with their children.”

Rosanna Hayden, CEO of Artizen Staffing in Rohnert Park, applauds the extension, but would like to see it extended even further, in California and across the country.

“There are many nations, including Canada, Greece and the U.K., that give one year or more (of) fully to partially paid leave to parents to bond with their newborn children,” Hayden said. “Around the world, the U.S., Mexico and Portugal rank amongst the least generous in this regard.”

I would personally say that when I had my children, I would have welcomed any additional time I could have with them.Elizabeth Sheehan, Robert Half

“I think progress on extending this leave might just need to come in weeks, with an eye to extending it further in the future,” said Elizabeth Sheehan, branch manager and jobs expert for Robert Half in Santa Rosa. “I would personally say that when I had my children, I would have welcomed any additional time I could have with them.”

Sheehan said she doesn’t expect the additional two weeks to have a significant effect on a North Bay employer’s ability to secure top talent in this tight labor market.

However, she noted, it can play a worthwhile role.

“(An) employer’s understanding and communication of their desire to support an employee’s leave would demonstrate that they support their overall well-being, as well as that of their family,” Sheehan said. “Today’s skilled workers seek more than just health insurance from an employer — they want to know their organization cares about their health and happiness.”

The program pays between 60% and 70% of a person’s wages, calculated on income earned in the previous five to 18 months, according to the state employment department. Hiking the wage-replacement rate up to 90% for low-income workers is also included in SB 83. Newsom has reportedly assembled a task force to study how to implement the plan.

Paid family leave benefits are paid from California State Disability Insurance taxes (SDI), which California workers pay into through a 1% payroll deduction.

Further, these benefits currently do not provide job protection, but it’s included in SB 83. Newsom addressed this in his budget summary.

“(The) budget takes additional steps to increase the use of PFL benefits, including statutory changes to align PFL benefits with job protections and resources to support small businesses that extend the PFL benefits to their employees,” he wrote.

Under current law, job protection may be available — and taken concurrently — through other state or federal laws, such as the California Family Rights Act or the Family and Medical Leave Ac. Both are unpaid.

To date, a handful of additional states have adopted paid leave. Several, including New York, Massachusetts and Washington, now provide up to 12 weeks of paid time off.

Staff Writer Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. Reach her at cheryl.sarfaty@busjrnl.com or 707-521-4259.

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