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Updates to the Paid Family Leave Act in Orange County - 2021

The state of California recently passed a lot of new laws aimed at health and employers that went into effect on January 1, 2021. Today we’re going to explore the updates to the Paid Family Leave Act (PFL) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) as they impact Orange County caregivers.*

*Disclaimer: This summary is provided for informational purposes only and is not in any way a source of, or substitute for, legal counsel.

Summary of the Changes

As of January 1, 2021, caregivers in the state of California are eligible to take up to 12 job-protected weeks off within a 12-month period and receive between 60-70% of their wages reimbursed for 8 of those weeks.

Let’s now discuss who is defined as a caregiver (and thus eligible to take these leaves).

A family caregiver is a legally and officially recognized term all across the state of California. This definition was expanded as of January 1, 2021, to include anyone who takes substantive care of a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandparent, grandchild, parent-in-law, or sibling that is unable to care for themselves in whole or in part due to a debilitating physical or mental condition. Previously only caregivers caring for a direct spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent were recognized.

If you’re interested to find out what caregiving looks like and whether or not you qualify as a family caregiver, please click here (available in both English and Spanish) or take a caregiver quiz.

The next major change made expanded access to these leaves to anyone employed at any company with 5 or more employees in California. Previously, you needed to be employed by a company with a minimum of 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of your office.

The final major change expanded coverage to include military members and select members of their families.

These changes expanded coverage to millions of additional caregivers in the state of California, which is an excellent step in the right direction.

PFL and CFRA: A Great but Imperfect Step

The changes made to PFL and CFRA are important and monumental changes that will impact thousands of families positively in 2021. While this is true, we want to highlight a few ways we recognize these laws may not be perfect for families in Orange County.

Low-income Households. Receiving only a portion of wages for a family that is struggling to make ends meet as-is will not necessarily make caregiving more accessible.

Difficult to Understand. The PFL and CFRA leaves are separate and not equal, which makes applying for, understanding, and receiving these benefits trickier than necessary. To clarify, caregivers in the state of California are eligible to take up to 12 job-protected weeks off within a 12-month period by applying for and utilizing CFRA leave. They will also be eligible to receive between 60-70% of their wages reimbursed for 8 of those weeks by applying for and utilizing PFL leave. In some situations, caregivers will be eligible for one type of leave but not the other. This may leave caregivers forced to decide if they can afford to abandon their position if needed (in the case of paid but non-job-protected leave) and/or whether they can afford to go unpaid (in the case of job-protected, but unpaid leave).

Non-Traditional Employment. Independent contractors and other non-traditional employment situations are ineligible for these protections.

Where can you apply?

You can apply for paid family leave (PFL) and job-protected leave (CFRA) on the EDD (California Employment Development Department) website.

Closing Thoughts

The 2021 updates to CFRA and PFL are exciting and welcomed changes for millions of caregivers in Orange County. If you still have questions or want additional resources, we’re here to help.

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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