SACRAMENTO – A bill by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to strengthen job protections for Californians utilizing their Paid Family Leave benefits passed out of the Legislature today. The bill now heads to the Governor.
The vote on the Assembly floor this evening was 41-29. The vote on the Senate floor was 23-16.
Senate Bill 406, which was narrowed in recent weeks, aligns California’s family leave laws to better reflect the caregiving responsibilities of California’s diverse and multi-generational families. It strengthens the California Family Rights Act to ensure that when accessing the Paid Family Leave Program to care for seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, in-laws, or children, regardless of age, Californians do not risk losing their jobs and can take job-protected leave. Current law already provides job-protected leave to care for a parent, spouse, domestic partner or minor or dependent child.
California has the second highest percentage of multi-generational households in the country. A recent survey of caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients found that over 40% of caregivers were not covered under the narrow definition of family in the CFRA.
“No one should have to choose between caring for a seriously ill loved one and keeping their job,” said Jackson. “This bill will help ensure that more Californians can attend to their family responsibilities and access a benefit they’re already paying into without fear of losing their jobs. This bill shows that we are a state that cares about its people and its extended families and the role they play in building a stronger California.”
“We are thrilled that the Legislature has passed SB 406,” said Sharon Terman, Director of the Work and Family Program at Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, a co-sponsor of the bill. “SB 406 aligns our family leave laws and recognizes the diversity of California’s families. No one should have to risk their job to care for a close family member who is seriously ill.”
A little more than a decade ago, California became the first state in the nation to enact the Paid Family Leave Program to provide partial pay to workers – funded entirely by employee payroll deductions through the State Disability Insurance system – to take up to six weeks off to bond with a new child or provide care for a seriously ill family member.
Since its implementation in 2004, almost two million Californians have taken Paid Family Leave. Yet still far too few Californians know about the program and are taking it. According to a 2011 study, among those who were aware of PFL and needed leave but did not apply for it, 37 percent said they did not apply because they feared they would be fired or face other consequences at work.
Last July, Jackson’s Senate Bill 770 took effect. It strengthened California’s Paid Family Leave Program by expanding it to include care for seriously ill grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and in-laws to more accurately reflect the caregiving responsibilities of California families. However, until SB 406 is signed into law, Californians using the Paid Family Leave Program to care for these extended family members will have benefits but no job protection.
The Governor has until October 11 to act on this bill.
Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.