Little girl holding newborn baby  

Although there are common elements to the many PFL regulations, there are also differences in the way each state designs its plan and coordinates it with other leave types. Here’s what you need to know about PFL and state disability in California.


Paid Family Leave

On June 27, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newson signed Senate Bill 83, which mandates changes to California’s paid family leave (PFL) program. The below FAQs reflect these changes as well as 2020 annual updates.

What is California Paid Family Leave (PFL)?

The California program provides eligible employees paid benefits for leave to:

  • Bond with a new child within 12 months of birth or placement via adoption or foster care
  • Care for a seriously ill family member
  • Military exigency (added as a new covered leave effective January 1, 2021)

A family member includes child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.

On January 2, 2021, the list of qualifying PFL reasons will expand to include a qualifying military exigency.

When did CA PFL begin?

California PFL was passed in 2002 and took effect July 1, 2004. 

On June 27, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newson signed Senate Bill 83, which mandates changes to California’s paid family leave (PFL) program.

Who is eligible?

Employees working in California must meet the following requirements to qualify for PFL benefits:

  • Earn at least $300 during a 12-month base period, where State Disability Insurance (SDI) deductions were withheld.
  • Be taking leave because they are unable to do regular work due to the need to provide care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a child.
  • Be employed or actively looking for employment at the time paid family leave begins.
  • Submit claim form and medical certificate between the first day of leave and 41 days after the leave begins.

Note: the same eligibility requirements outlined above apply to California's SDI program.

What is the voluntary program option?

Instead of a state-run program, employers may elect to offer a private plan, referred to as a voluntary plan. An employer's voluntary plan must meet the following requirements:

  • Program must fully meet and provide at least one benefit that is better than the state plan.
  • Cannot cost employees more than the state plan.
  • Employers must formally apply for voluntary plan approval with the Employment Development Department (EDD) before implementing the plan.

Lincoln offers a voluntary plan on an Administrative Services Only (ASO) basis. By law, an employer's voluntary plan, known as Voluntary Disability Insurance or VDI, must include SDI and PFL coverage.

How is the program funded?

The California PFL program is funded through the employee's state disability Insurance tax withholding.

  2020 2021
Employee contribution rate 1.0% 1.2%
Employee taxable wage base $122,909 $128,298
Maximum contribution $1,229.09 $1,539.58


Are PFL benefits taxable?

Family Leave Insurance benefits are subject to federal income tax and to federal rules on reporting income and paying taxes. PFL benefits are not subject to California state income tax. Benefits are reported on a 1099-G tax form.

What are the benefits to the employee?

CA PFL will provide up to eight (8) weeks of partial wage replacement for bonding with a new child or caring for a seriously ill family member every 12 months. For more of the benefit changes see below:

  2020 (Jan 1 to Jun 30) 2020 (July 1 to later) 2021
Benefit % 60% or 70% 60% or 70% 60% or 70%
Max weekly benefit $1,300 $1,300 $1,357
Benefit duration 6 weeks 8 weeks 8 weeks

An employee's weekly benefit amount may be estimated using the state's PFL calculator.

There is no waiting period for PFL benefits.

Does California Paid Family Leave provide intermittent leave?

Yes. Employees may take leave on a continuous or intermittent basis.

Does California PFL provide job protection?

CA PFL does not provide job protection. Employees may be eligible for job protection if their leave also qualifies for leave under other laws such as FMLA, the California Family Rights Act, or the New Parent Leave Act.

How can I get more information and access forms from California state?

Go to CA PFL forms for key forms and notices regarding CA PFL plan administration, or call (877) 238-4373 with questions.

Other California state paid leave resources:

State disability

What is State Disability Insurance (SDI)?

California’s SDI provides short-term cash benefits to employees working in California who can’t work due to a non-work-related illness, injury, or pregnancy.

When did CA SDI begin?

California’s SDI program was established in 1946.

Who is eligible?

Eligible employees must have earned at least $300.00 from which SDI deductions were withheld during their base period. The base period is the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to claim.

Is there a voluntary plan option?

An employer, or a majority of their employees, can apply to the Employment Development Department (EDD) if they want to use a Voluntary Plan (VP) instead of the mandatory SDI coverage. The employer must also post a security deposit with the EDD to guarantee it meets all obligations of the VP:

  • Must provide all the benefits of SDI
  • Must provide at least one benefit that is better than SDI
  • Cannot cost employees more than SDI

Note: voluntary plans are referred to as Voluntary Disability Insurance (VDI). VDI plans are self-insured and are also required by the state to include the state-mandated PFL coverage. This means that employees covered under the VDI plan would request their disability or PFL benefits through the plan.

How is the program funded?

The California SDI program is funded through the employee's state disability Insurance tax withholding. The 2019 employee contribution rate for SDI is 1.2% of wages, up to the 2021 maximum of $128,298. The 2021 maximum annual deduction is $1,539.58. Note: this contribution also funds the California PFL benefit.

What are the benefits to the employee?

California SDI provides an employee with up to one year of benefits. The weekly benefit for an employee making one-third or less of the state’s average quarterly wage ($17,979.00 for 2021) will be equal to 70% of the employee’s weekly wages. The weekly benefit for an employee making more than one-third of the state’s average quarterly wage will be equal to the greater of 60% of weekly wages or 23.3% of the state average weekly wage. Both are subject to a minimum weekly benefit of $50 and a maximum weekly benefit of $1,357 in 2021.

Are SDI benefits taxable?

SDI benefits do not have to be reported for tax purposes, unless an employee receives unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, becomes unable to work due to a disability, and then begins receiving SDI benefits. In this case, the employee’s SDI benefits are considered a substitute for their UI benefits and will then be taxable. In this situation, the employee will get a notice, along with the first reportable benefit payment, advising them that the benefits are being reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The employee will get a 1099G form the following January, showing the reportable amounts paid (no more than the original UI maximum.) A copy of the 1099G will also be sent to the IRS.

Does California SDI provide job protection?

No. However, laws such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) may provide job protection. The FMLA and CFRA let employees take unpaid leave for their own or a family member’s illness, or to care for children who are unable to take care of themselves. The FMLA and CFRA are completely separate laws from SDI.

Other California SDI resources:
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