Jackson Introduces Legislation to Strengthen Paid Family Leave

January 16, 2019

SACRAMENTO –Following Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement that he is committed to expanding paid family leave, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced legislation today to strengthen California’s family leave laws and create more equitable access to the program.

Senate Bill 135 sets out a number of priorities for the Legislature on family leave:

•          Ensuring that workers can’t be fired when they take Paid Family Leave;

•          Extending the time period workers can take to bond with their child for the first six months of a newborn’s life or to care for a seriously ill family member;

•          Expanding the definition of family member in our family leave laws to reflect the realities of today’s working families;

•          And increasing the wage replacement amount in the Paid Family Leave Program to ensure families can afford to take leave to care for children and family members.

“Family leave is good for families, good for children, and good for our economy. With more families than ever depending on two incomes to pay their bills, it’s time for California to finally live up to the full promise of our Paid Family Leave Program,” said Senator Jackson, Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Women, Work and Families. “The Governor’s commitment has built important momentum for California’s families, and the time is right to provide all working families who pay into this program the ability to care for their loved ones without fear of losing their income or their jobs.”

California’s family leave program is entirely employee-funded. While groundbreaking nationwide when it passed in 2002, it remains out of reach for many working residents who pay into it. Although eligible employees can earn partial wage replacement for up to six weeks to care for a family member or bond with a new child, as well as additional unpaid yet job-protected time, many Californians cannot afford to live on only a portion of their salary. In addition, because of laws which limit job protection by the size of employer, many employees cannot use the program they pay into for fear of losing their jobs if they do. Finally, six weeks is not enough time for most families. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend a new baby enter day care until they are at least 12 weeks old. To meet this recommendation, as it currently stands, a family would have to rely on partial pay for six weeks, with no income for an additional six weeks.

Jackson has long championed policies that support working parents and their children, including her Senate Bill 63, the New Parent Leave Act, which became law in 2018 and expanded job protected maternity and paternity leave to California employees of companies with 20 to 49 employees. Prior to SB 63, the job protection for parental leave was limited to employees of companies with 50 or more.

The legislation is supported by advocates for low-wage workers, including the nonprofit Legal Aid at Work. “Too many families are faced with a heartbreaking choice: use the Paid Family Leave benefit they have already paid for and be with their loved ones in need, or instead keep their jobs and income,” said Julia Parish, Senior Staff Attorney at Legal Aid at Work, which advocates for the health and economic security of low-wage workers and their families.  “We can make Paid Family Leave work for everyone.”

Paid Family Leave saves businesses money.  Turnover, recruitment and training costs for new employees cost roughly 20% of the original worker’s salary.  Employees who can take protected leave to bond with their newborns are less likely to leave their jobs, which then reduces the burden to their employers.  According to the Department of Labor, wage costs per worker and turnover rates went down on average after Paid Family Leave was introduced in California. In addition, small businesses have reported that Paid Family Leave has had either a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity (89%), profitability/performance (91%), turnover (92%), and morale (99%).

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.