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GuidesEmployee experienceCalifornia Paid Family Leave: Benefits & eligibility guide

California Paid Family Leave: Benefits & eligibility guide

Last updated

3 October 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Shawnna Johnson

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Paid Family Leave (PFL) is a program that provides benefits to employees who need to take time off work for certain reasons. California residents may qualify under a number of categories.

This article will discuss who qualifies for paid family leave, what benefits are available, and how to apply.

How does California’s Paid Family Leave work?

You may be eligible for PFL for several reasons, including the following:

  • You need to care for a family member who has a serious illness.

  • You are a new parent.

  • You need to participate in a qualifying (military) event when a family member is in the military. The event doesn’t have to take place in California.

Those who are eligible can receive benefit payments for eight weeks, but not necessarily job protection. The amount of benefits you can receive is based on your salary during the 5–18 months prior to filing the claim. Benefits are 60–70% of your earnings.

PFL employer requirements

PFL benefits are funded by employees. However, employers are required to collect employee State Disability Insurance (SDI) contributions from paychecks and send them to the Employment Development Department (EDD).

PFL for birth mothers and biological fathers

To be eligible, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You have a new child who was born in the past 12 months.

  • You have paid into State Disability Insurance during the past 5–18 months.

  • You have not taken eight weeks of PFL for any reason in the last 12 months.

PFL for adoptive or foster parents

Adoptive parents may be eligible for PFL. To qualify for the program, you must meet these requirements:

  • You have adopted a child or had a child placed with the family through foster care placement in the last 12 months.

  • You have paid into State Disability Insurance during the past 5–18 months.

  • You have not taken eight weeks of PFL for any reason in the last 12 months.

PFL for caregivers

You can take PFL if you are the primary caregiver for a family member who is seriously ill. This can be a domestic partner, child, parent, sibling, spouse, grandparent, or grandchild.

PFL for military family members

Military members are not eligible for PFL as they don’t pay into SDI. However, family members may be eligible.

If you need to participate in a qualifying event involving the military member’s deployment to a foreign country, you may qualify for PFL. The family member must be a spouse, registered domestic partner, child, or parent.

PFL for physicians and medical practitioners

PFL can be certified by licensed medical practitioners. Medical professionals need to be familiar with the criteria for approving PFL and stay informed about any changes or updates to California laws affecting eligibility.

The following categories of medical care workers may certify PFL: 

  • Dentists

  • Psychologists

  • Optometrists

  • Psychologists

  • Osteopathic physicians

  • Chiropractors

  • Authorized medical officers of US government facilities

  • Licensed midwives, nurse midwives

  • Physician assistants and nurse practitioners after examination and collaboration with a physician or surgeon

  • Accredited religious practitioners

PFL for those who are self-employed

Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DIEC) is an optional program for people who are self-employed or independent contractors. These individuals can opt to make quarterly payments that protect them if they are unable to work for a period.

Voluntary plans

Employers may offer a voluntary plan (VP) as an alternative to SDI. This plan must offer all the benefits of SDI as well as one additional benefit that is better than SDI. The VP cannot cost employees more than SDI.

The process for claiming PFL involves the following steps:

Review your eligibility

Make sure you qualify based on the eligibility requirements covered above. You can check your eligibility on the State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) website.

File your claim

Gather all the information you need. This includes your California driver’s license or identification card, social security number, employer information, and the last date you worked your normal schedule.

File your claim by mail or online

You can either file your claim by mail or online. If you want to file by mail, you can order the forms online from the EDD website or pick up the forms at an SDI office.

Here are the steps for applying online:

  • Register with myEDD.

  • Select the “new claim” option.

  • Choose the category that fits your situation (Paid Family Leave Bonding, Paid Family Leave Care, or Paid Family Leave Military Assist) and follow the appropriate instructions.

Attach additional documents

You may need to attach additional documents. Depending on the type of claim you’re filing, these may include the following:

  • Documents for care claims

  • Documents for military assistance claims

  • New parents, with the exception of birth mothers, need to provide documentation related to the child’s birth, including their birth certificate. Adoptive parents need to provide the Adoptive Placement Agreement (AD-907). Foster parents need to provide the Foster Care Placement Record (SOC-815).

The EDD determines eligibility

After applying, the EDD will let you know if you are eligible within approximately 14 days. If you are eligible to receive benefits, you can choose to receive payments by mail or via a debit card.

You have the right to appeal if the EDD decides you are not eligible for benefits. You must file your appeal within 30 days of the disqualification notice.

Continue or stop your benefits

If you work during your PFL period, you will receive a Continued Claim Certification for Paid Family Leave Benefits (DE 2580GF) form. Your benefits will stop if you don’t return it.

You can certify to extend your PFL period if you still have benefits available and still need to care for a family member. You must alert the EDD to stop your benefits if you return to work, either part-time or full-time, or if the care recipient recovers from their illness or dies.


Does an employer have to pay for Paid Family Leave in California?

This is an employee-paid benefit. However, employers are required to collect SDI contributions and send them to the EDD.

Can both parents take California PFL at the same time?

Yes, if both parents meet eligibility requirements.

What is the maximum benefit for Paid Family Leave in California?

The maximum benefit period is eight weeks.

What is the new law for Paid Family Leave in California?

In 2023, two new policies regarding PFL went into effect.

California AB 1041 expands the definition of “parent” to include parents-in-law. It also expands coverage for anyone with “designated person” status.

California AB 1949 expands coverage for bereavement leave from three to five days for covered employees who have worked for at least 30 days.

How do I maximize my maternity leave in California?

To maximize maternity leave, first take pregnancy disability leave (PDL), if eligible, and then take up to 12 weeks of parental leave.

However, bear in mind that employers in California are not required by law to pay employees during their maternity leave

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