Advocates Praise Governor Newsom’s Continued Dedication to Equitable Paid Family Leave in the May Revision of Budget

Caregiving hands

Sacramento, CA (May 14, 2020). Legal Aid at Work and the California Work & Family Coalition applaud Governor Newsom’s ongoing commitment to protecting the jobs and economic stability of Californians who need leave to care for themselves and their families during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The May Revision of Governor Newsom’s budget announced today continues to include crucial measures to protect Californians from being fired when they take time off from work to bond with a new child or take care of their own or a family member’s illness. This builds off the Governor’s important step last year of expanding the duration of Paid Family Leave from 6 to 8 weeks, which will become effective July 1, 2020.  The budget proposal also includes key supports for small businesses.  In addition, the budget will ensure that workers can’t be fired for caring for an expanded list of family members covered by Paid Family Leave, including adult children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and parents-in-law.

Currently, nearly all Californians pay into the state’s Paid Family Leave fund.  Yet, more than 40% of these workers can be fired for taking Paid Family Leave to care for an ill family member.  And more than a quarter can be fired for taking Paid Family Leave to care for a new baby.  That is because only people who work for large or medium-sized employers are currently protected from being fired when they take time off to care for their family.

Because low-wage Californians are the least likely to qualify for job-protected leave, they lose out on the benefits of Paid Family Leave, including improvements in family health, wellbeing and economic security.  The COVID-19 pandemic has only highlighted the devastating effects this gap in coverage has on low-wage working families.

“Ensuring that low-wage workers can take care of their family’s health without sacrificing their jobs is more important now than ever,” said Sharon Terman, Director of Legal Aid at Work’s Work and Family Program. “Job-protected paid family leave builds healthier families and communities, and will help rebuild a strong economy by allowing workers to stay attached to the workforce while they care for their loved ones.”

Every year, Legal Aid at Work hears from too many workers who have been forced to choose between being there for their families and keeping their jobs.  One new father, whose employer was too small to be covered by the current job protection laws, was fired from his job as a busser when he took two weeks to bond with his baby who was born with health complications.

He said, “My employer’s decision to fire me left my family and me very vulnerable. I was the main breadwinner. This was an emotionally, physically, and financially draining experience during an already stressful time. I am devastated that I lost my job and I am stressed to see how I will support my family.”

Not only does Paid Family Leave support families, it also benefits businesses by reducing turnover, improving employee morale, and promoting business growth.  It’s no surprise that 83% of Californians support protecting all workers’ jobs when they take Paid Family Leave, according to a poll released in January by First 5 California.

Protecting workers’ jobs when they take leave to bond with their children or care for their family is necessary to achieve equitable access to Paid Family Leave.  Legal Aid at Work and the California Work & Family Coalition commend the Governor on urging this essential step.

“We are thrilled to see the Governor’s commitment to California’s Paid Family Leave in the state budget,” said Jenya Cassidy, Director of the California Work & Family Coalition.  “All workers and families deserve the right to take time to bond and care. Too many have been left behind due to lack of job protection and inadequate wage replacement in our Paid Family Leave law. The Coalition has been working on expanding the right to take leave since the beginning and it’s exciting to see an Administration that supports this for all families – especially now.”

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