Seyfarth Synopsis:  Starting Jan 1, 2018, the amount of benefits paid to employees on paid family leave and state disability will increase substantially, depending on an employee’s income level.

The Legislature and Governor have been keeping very busy. On April 11, 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 908, which will, though effective January 1, 2017, increase, for periods of disability commencing on or after January 1, 2018, the benefits provided to individuals in the Paid Family Leave (PFL) and State Disability Insurance (SDI) programs. The new law will increase the level of benefits from the current level of 55 percent to either 60 or 70 percent, depending on the applicant’s income. The new law will also remove, effective January 1, 2018, the seven-day waiting period before which individuals would be eligible for family temporary disability benefits.

The PFL program provides up to six weeks of wage replacement benefits to workers who take time off work to care for a seriously ill or injured family member or to bond with a minor child with one year of birth or placement of the child in connection with foster care or adoption. The SDI program provides benefits to individuals who are unable to work because of their own illness or injury.

In his press release, Governor Brown was quoted as saying: “Families should be able to afford time off to take care of a new child or a member of their family who becomes ill.” The press release further touted the legislation as improving “an individual’s ability to take up to six weeks off to bond with a new child or care for an ill family member.”

The Paid Family Leave program affected by this legislation was enacted in 2002. It is funded through worker contributions and is administered by the Employment Development Department in tandem with the State Disability Insurance program.

This legislation comes on the heels of Governor Brown last week signing legislation raising California’s minimum wage, in a series of annual steps, to at least $15 per hour statewide.