Tag Archives: CFRA

Paid Parental Leave

Check out the above graphic (provided by CamiliaUSA).  And it gets better.  Did you know that there are only 4 countries in the world who have no federal law mandating paid time off for new parents?  Yep: Swaziland, Papa New Guinea, Liberia, and the good ole US of A.

Nice.

Here, the postpartum period is considered a period of “disability” and is paid out of Short Term Disability (STD) for 6-8 weeks.  Beyond that, we’re SOL.  Yes, we are provided a total of 12 weeks of job protection under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but as far as compensation goes – in most states – there is nothing.

Fortunately for me, I live in California, which does offer a slightly better plan.  After the 6-8 weeks of paid disability, I am provided the option of an additional 6 weeks of compensation up to 55% of my weekly salary (capped at about $1000/week) paid out of California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL) plan.

As far as job protection goes, I am also better protected under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), which allows for 12 weeks of job protection AFTER I’m released from Short Term Disability.

Bottom line is this: In most states, working mothers (and only mothers) are paid for 6-8 weeks postpartum (6 weeks for vaginal delivery, 8 weeks for c-section) out of Short Term Disability.  Beyond that, they remain job protected for an additional 4-6 weeks under FMLA (which provides 12 weeks total job protection – beginning with the birth of the child).  That breaks down as follows:

  • Job Protection:  12 weeks of FMLA each for mother and father, beginning when the baby is born (so up to 24 weeks if taken one after the other).
  • Compensation:  For the mother only, typically 6-8 weeks of full pay under STD.

In California, working mothers are also paid for 6-8 weeks postpartum under Short Term Disability.  But once they are released from FMLA, they are granted an ADDITIONAL 12 weeks of job protection under CFRA (vs. FMLA, which starts the clock upon the birth of the child).  Once STD coverage ends, both mothers AND fathers are each eligible for up to 6 weeks of compensation at 55% of their weekly salary under California’s PDL plan.  That breaks down like this:

  • CA Job Protection:  12 weeks each of concurrent FMLA and CFRA for mother and father, beginning when the baby is born.  The benefit for the mother is that while FMLA begins when the baby is born, CFRA protection doesn’t begin until she is released from Short Term Disability.  So this gives her an additional 12 weeks beyond the initial 6-8 weeks covered by STD/FMLA (that’s up to 18-20 weeks total).  If both parents take their full protected leaves one after the other, that is a total of 30-32 weeks of job protection.
  • CA Compensation:  For the mother only, typically 6-8 weeks of full pay under STD.  Beyond that, both the mother and father are each entitled to an additional 6 weeks of compensation of up to 55% of their respective weekly salaries (capped at $1000/week) under the CA PFL plan.

Confused yet?  Yeah, me too.  It took me no fewer than 5 phone calls to HR to understand my rights and entitlements, and I still have to refer back to my notes to make sure I’m understanding correctly.

Let’s compare this to the rights of our friendly neighbors to the north.  In Canada, mothers get 15 weeks of maternity leave paid at 55% of weekly salary (up to $485/week).  After that, mothers and fathers are entitled to an additional 35 weeks (to be shared) of paternity leave at the same pay scale.  Finally, there is an additional 2 week unpaid “waiting period” for benefits that is also job protected.  That’s a total of 52 weeks (1 full year) of job protection after the birth of a child!

And our neighbors to the south?  Mexican parents get 12 weeks maternity leave paid at 75% of salary.  Not too shabby.

And it gets better.  Canada is simply considered middle of the road as far as parental leaves go.  The Czech Republic, for example, allows for 28 weeks of maternity leave (6-8 weeks even before the birth of the child) paid at about 70% of normal salary.  After that, paid job protection is offered for up to 4 YEARS, paid on a sliding scale (the less time you opt to take, the more compensation you receive every month).  You heard that right… 4 YEARS!

Just one more example (of the many) is Norway.  Parents there can opt to receive either 56 weeks of leave at 80% pay, or 46 weeks at 100% pay.  Furthermore, the mother is required to take at least 3 weeks prior to birth and at least 6 weeks after.  Likewise, the father is required to take at least 12 weeks under the “daddy quota.”  Beyond all this, the mother and father can each opt to take an additional 12 months of job protected leave.  So, if the family decided to extend the leave as long as possible, that’s a total of 3 years and 1 month!

Now let’s look at some of the developing nations.  Surely an industrialized nation like the United States would offer leave programs at least comparable to those of developing nations?

Not so fast.

The Congo offers 15 weeks of maternity leave, paid at 100% of salary.  Vietnam offers 4-6 months, paid at 100% of salary.  India offers 12 weeks, paid at 100% of salary.  Even Afghanistan offers 12 weeks at 100%.

And the list goes on and on….

Perhaps one of the best examples is the United Nations.  Members of this organization are allotted 16 weeks of maternity leave paid at 100%, and 4-8 weeks of paternity leave paid at 100%.  I suppose you could consider this the international agreed-upon baseline.

We don’t even compare.

I’ve heard the counter-arguments, of course.  The cost.  The potential for discrimination against women in hiring.  Not to mention the fear that a parent would take advantage of the full paid leave, and then quit anyway (after becoming so accustomed to being at home, etc).

Let’s start with the cost.  Yes, there is a financial cost associated.  But there are ways to shoulder the burden.  In Canada, for example, the amount comes out of the federal Employment Insurance program – paid into by working Canadians.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be shouldered by employers.

As far as discrimination against women in hiring, that seems to be a pretty naive statement, assuming that only women would and should take parental leave.  If the policies were equivalent across both men and women, I doubt there would be much incentive for employers to hire one over the other.  Additionally, with all our laws protecting women and minorities from discriminatory hiring practices, I would hope that we’re protected here.

And for mothers (or fathers) opting to take long leaves and then quitting for good – well, yes, that is a risk.  However, I feel it is a much larger risk given the very short time period Americans have of protected leave today.  Parents are left with no good alternatives; we either leave our tiny 6 or 12-week-olds with caregivers, or simply give up and quit until they are older.  For me personally, this was a very very difficult decision, and I was “this close” to throwing my hands up and quitting until my son was older (and probably would have, had I not been fortunate enough to be offered a much more flexible position).  Canada, again, appears to be a good example in that after 12 months at home, statistics show that the vast majority of mothers feel ready to leave their children with other caregivers and transition back into their careers.  In addition, it is much easier to hire a temporary replacement for a 12-month contract instead of a temporary replacement for 6-12 weeks (which basically leaves the American employer SOL until the parent returns to work).

So where does this leave us?  We remain in the Bottom Four internationally as far as paid parental leave goes.  Not really something to be proud of for a nation that touts itself as the leader of the free world.  Consider that prior to 1993, there was NO provision for protected leave (and employers could deny at will), and I suppose we’ve come a little ways.

But we still have so much further to go.  We talk about the children being our future, yet are forcing mothers to leave them at 6-12 weeks-old.  I am constantly surprised in my conversations with other mothers; how many don’t realize how poorly our leave regulations fare against international standards.  Does that mean we just accept it they way it is?  That we assume this is the best we can get?

I hope not.  Our children and future generations depend on it.

California Maternity Leave

Right off the bat, I have to say that I find it deplorable that the U.S. has such poor policies for maternity leave accommodations relative to most other industrialized nations.  In the words of one of my foreign relatives, it is “barbaric” that Short Term Disability only pays a new mother 6 weeks for a regular delivery (8 weeks for c-section).  Compare that to up to 7-12 months PAID in many other countries, and it’s no wonder that many working mothers simply can’t fathom returning to their jobs so soon and, ultimately, don’t.

Fortunately, I live in California, where policies are marginally better.  In addition to Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protection, both hubby and I are eligible for additional job protection under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).  That said, I am convinced that both legislators and companies make the acts as confusing as possible to encourage new parents to give up the headache and simply come back to work!

I am by no means an expert, but after much research and about 30 calls to my company’s Leave Department, I think I have enough of a grasp to help explain the benefits for my particular situation:

  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA):  This is a federal act that allows for 12 weeks of unpaid job protection (both mother and father) following the birth of a child.  To be eligible, the parent must have worked at least 12 months and 1250 hours at their company, and the company must employ at least 50 employees.  The rub is that if both parents happen to work for the same company, they’re only entitled to a combined 12 weeks of protection (vs. 12 weeks each).
  • California Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) & Short Term Disability (STD):  This is paid and assuming you take it post-birth, it will run in concurrence with FMLA, so will be job protected.  Only the mother is eligible in a childbirth scenario.  Typically, for a vaginal birth, the mother will receive 6 weeks of STD and/or CA PDL.  For a c-section, the mother will receive 8 weeks.  Payment depends on your company’s policies – in my case, my company pays 100% of my salary up to a certain number of weeks based on my tenure, and then 75% of my salary for weeks beyond that.  I believe that if your company is paying less than 100%, then that’s when CA PDL kicks in to cover the rest.  Note that CA PDL also allows for up to 4 weeks prior to birth at a benefit amount of up to 55% of your weekly salary (capped at somewhere around $1000/week).  However, this pre-birth leave is NOT job-protected and some companies (including my own) will not allow you to take it.
  • California Family Rights Act (CFRA):  This is unpaid leave that provides 12 weeks of of job protection in a rolling 12 month period for mother and father.  This runs in concurrence with FMLA but begins after STD ends (for the mother).  This means that if the mother opts to take the full leave under both FMLA and CFRA immediately after the birth of her child, that her CFRA protection will begin once she is released from Short Term Disability, and will subsequently out-run her FMLA job-protection benefit.  Confusing, I know.
  • California Paid Family Leave (PFL):  This allows for up to 6 weeks of paid benefit for both mother and father (assuming both take advantage).  You get paid up to 55% of your weekly salary amount, with a cap of somewhere around $1000/week.  This leave is NOT job protected, but can be taken in conjunction with CFRA/FMLA to ensure job protection.

Clear as mud??  I found that the most important thing in trying to clarify the best plan for us was to first identify our top priority – Time or Income.  Were we looking to take the longest job-protected leaves possible, regardless of income during that time?  Or was income during our leaves the larger concern?  In our case, we chose time, so the following illustrates a rough example of how we were able to maximize our job-protected leaves:

  1. Prior to baby’s due date, I took 1 week of Paid Time Off (required by the company as a “waiting period” for Short Term Disability).  Please note that many California companies will allow you to take advantage of up to 4 weeks of California PDL prior to the baby’s due date, paid at up to 55% (capped) of your weekly salary.  By “allow you,” I mean “job-protect you.”  Mine unfortunately was one that would not.
  2. After baby’s birth, I received 6 weeks of Short Term Disability for a vaginal delivery.  Additionally, the FMLA job protection clock started ticking the day the baby was born.  Hubby concurrently took 3 weeks of company-paid time off upon the baby’s birth.
  3. Once I was released from Short Term Disability at 6 weeks postpartum, the clock began ticking under CFRA (if you’re keeping count, I’m now 6 weeks into my 12 weeks of FMLA job protection; now an additional 12 weeks of CFRA is running concurrently with my remaining 6 weeks of FMLA).  In addition, I received 6 weeks of payment under California PFL (up to 6 weeks of payment at 55% of my salary – capped at about $1000/week). 
  4. Once my California PFL benefit ran out after 6 weeks, I began my final 6 weeks of UNPAID job-protection under CFRA.  My full FMLA benefit of 12 weeks has now run out so I am only protected under CFRA for the remaining 6 weeks.
  5. Once I have exhausted all job protection, I will use 2.5 weeks of accrued Paid Time Off (PTO).  At the time that PTO begins, I am “reinstated” back at work and am no longer on leave.
  6. Once I return to work, hubby will begin his 12 weeks of job-protected leave under CFRA.  Like me, his first 6 weeks will be partially paid at 55% of his salary (capped).  His final 6 weeks will be unpaid.

In a nutshell, this puts us both back to work when our baby is about 7.5 months old (exhausting all job protection and PTO).  That’s a total of about 5 months of leave and PTO for me, 3 months for hubby.  Of this time, we are receiving 6 weeks fully paid by STD/CA PDL, 3.5 weeks fully paid by PTO, 12 weeks partially paid (55% of salary) by CA PFL, and 12 weeks unpaid.

For those in California looking to maximize income during leaves, the plans would be different.  If you are looking to continue receiving full pay throughout your leave, you would rely on 6 weeks of STD/CA PDL after the birth of your child (8 weeks for c-section).  Beyond that, you would have to use company-paid PTO or vacation time.

If you decide to sacrifice some, but not all, income, you can take your 6-8 weeks of fully paid STD/CA PDL following by an additional 6 weeks of CA PFL paid at 55% of your salary.  The baby’s father could then also receive benefits for an additional 6 weeks of CA PFL.  This would put you at 18 weeks postpartum (assuming vaginal delivery) before taking into consideration any company-paid PTO or vacation time.

Bottom line is that our maternity accommodations here are dismal.  I can’t even imagine what it would be like in some states outside of California where the job-protected leave is limited to 12 weeks total under FMLA (all unpaid except for concurrent STD).  I think change can come, but it will be a long time coming.  In the meantime, do your homework and begin your leave plans well ahead of time to ensure a financial safety net as well as a full understanding of your rights and limitations.  Good luck!