California Work and Family CoalitionMarch 21, 2012
By Vibhuti Mehra
March 16, 2012
This year, we are celebrating the 10th year anniversary of the passage of a pioneering law for California’s working families. In 2002, a coalition of unions and community organizations including the Labor Project for Working Families successfully passed the first Paid Family Leave (PFL) law in the nation. The law established a family leave insurance program that enables millions of Californians to be there for a seriously ill family member or a new child without worrying about losing their income when they take time off from work.
The PFL program replaces up to 55 percent of a worker’s income for up to six weeks when they need to take time off from work to care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children). Over one million PFL claims totaling over 2.4 billion dollars have been paid from the program since its inception in 2004.
In these tough economic times, programs like the PFL are especially important for low-wage workers who have little or no access to employer-provided paid sick leave, paid vacation, or long-term disability insurance and cannot afford to lose wages when they take time off for caregiving.
In addition to the economic benefits, research shows that programs like PFL have quantifiable positive impacts on the health of women, infants and children including improved mental and physical health, better prenatal and postnatal care, and strengthened parental bonding.
Unfortunately, despite its well-known benefits, awareness of the PFL program remains limited, especially among those who would benefit from it most. A 2011 study and a subsequent field poll by researchers Ruth Milkman and Eileen Appelbaum showed that Latino and immigrant communities and low-income earners are least likely to be aware of the law. PFL awareness levels are especially low in Los Angeles County.
It is important that more Californians become aware of and use the PFL program for two reasons:
1. This program helps make family leave affordable for working families and
2. This program is funded entirely by worker contributions – so they should be able to use the benefits when they need them the most.
To mark the 10th year anniversary of the passage of the PFL law, the Labor Project and the California Work & Family Coalition are conducting a year-long statewide outreach and education campaign to reach underserved communities with information about this program. We have developed some bilingual (English/Spanish) resources on the PFL program. We ask you to help us spread the word using these resources so that more Californians become aware of and are able use the PFL program.
DOWNLOAD POSTER: Six Key Laws for Parents – [English] [Spanish]
Learn more about California laws that allow you to take time to nurture your child. Post this snapshot of Six Key Laws for Parents at your workplace, health clinic or community center. Email us for free copies.
VISIT WEBSITE: Paid Family Leave in California – [English] [Spanish]
Learn more about the PFL program and how to participate, get answers to frequently asked questions, and find resources for you and your workplace.
Vibhuti Mehra is the Communications & Development Director at the Labor Project for Working Families.