High Marks for State Family Medical Leave Program

The state of California’s family medical leave program is getting high marks from researchers who have studied the law since its passage almost a decade ago. The state of California’s family medical leave program compliments the federal Family Medical Leave Act and provides additional benefits the federal law does not provide. Despite what pro-business advocates said before the passage of the law, the state law’s impact has been minimal on businesses according to researchers.

California’s Paid Family Leave Act was passed in 2002 and went into effect in 2004. Pro-business advocates argued before the bill’s passage that the law would have a negative impact on businesses. Two researchers, an economist and a sociologist, have recently concluded a study on the law and say that the anti-business worry that surround the bill before it was passed was unwarranted.

The California law gives eligible employees paid time off to care for a newborn child or a sick family member. Under the law eligible employees can receive up to six weeks off and receive pay up to 55 percent of their normal earnings. In comparison, the federal Family Medical Leave Act only provides unpaid leave time to care for sick family members or to care for a newborn.

The state law is funded by a state payroll tax of 1.2 percent. Around 12.3 million employees in California are eligible for the program and the average employee receives around $488 per week for the paid leave time. Researchers say the law has increased worker production, morale and performance on the job. All employees including fathers have had the ability to spend more time with newborn children. Perhaps California’s success will encourage other states to expand the benefits of the federal Family Medical Leave Act.

Source: Los Angeles Times, “California Family Leave Program Gets High Marks in Study,” Alana Semuels, 1/11/11

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