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Can I take time off to be a caregiver?

Balancing caregiving with the stress of work is an incredibly difficult task. About 60% of caregivers in the US (tens of millions of people each year) are balancing care with the need to support themselves with a job (Source: AARP). Adding to the stress, balancing care and work may leave you with little time for anything else, which may leave you feeling alone and isolated from your friends and family. This has massive implications on the working caregiver: from stress and isolation to anxiety and depression, this is an extraordinary load to bear. This situation begs the question, can I take time off to be a caregiver? Let’s explore.

California Caregivers

Can you take time off to be a caregiver? Potentially.

Working caregivers in the state of California are often protected by either the California Paid Family Leave (PFL) Act and/or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

  • The Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) is a partial wage replacement program that helps to supplement income for workers who need time off of work to care for a sick relative or bond with a new child. To be eligible, you need to have recently paid into California State Disability Insurance (your employer can confirm this for you). You also need to be caring for an eligible family member (i.e. must be a seriously ill parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, child, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.).

  • The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) is separate from, but works in conjunction with, PFL. CFRA provides job protection while you’re away on leave so that you don’t lose your job while you’re away providing care. To be eligible, you need to demonstrate a need to provide significant care for a loved one (a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, or sibling) and be employed by a company with at least 5 employees.

These two types of leave (paid/wage replacement and job-protected) can be taken concurrently, but they are not the same and require separate applications. Both can be applied for on the EDD website.

A full article explaining these options and more within Orange County is available here.

Beyond Legal Assistance

While these leave options are helpful and are there to support you through this time, in all likelihood, they’re not enough. If that’s the case, here are some other ideas you can use:

Talk to your employer about your situation. It’s possible that your employer will be empathetic to your struggle and work with you to find a solution. Reach out to the HR department to see if they have any company policies that can help you through this time.

Brainstorm options. Even if your employer has no policy in place to help you, they may be willing to work with you in other ways. For example:

  • Flexible scheduling (if possible)

  • Work-from-home options

  • They may be open to building a company policy or program for caregivers with your input and direction

  • Assistance paying for respite care

  • Using PTO or vacation days

  • Etc.

Find a support system. Whether it’s venting to a journal, talking to your personal friends and family, or engaging with a therapist or support group, it’s unhealthy to hold in all the stress you’re experiencing. You don’t have to go through this alone.

Closing Thoughts

Balancing the stresses of daily life, work, and caregiving is extremely difficult. It may feel isolating, overwhelming, and frustrating. But no matter how difficult the caregiving journey may get, you’re never alone in it. For further reading and resources, we invite you to check out our library of information for family caregivers by clicking here. You are also welcome to give us a call at 800-543-8312 to find out more about how we can support you in your caregiving journey.


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