Can I take family leave from my job?

Employees in California are provided two options to take leave from their jobs to care for family needs including illnesses and births.

Even the most dedicated employee in California may experience a situation that warrants them taking time away from their job. For some, this happens due to a joyous event like the birth or adoption of a new child into a family. For others, this might happen when a family member falls ill and requires care that cannot be properly managed when the caretaker is busy working full time.

In either of these situations, California employees have two different family leave options available to them. One is provided by the state and the other is provided by the federal government.

Two different programs, one goal

The Family and Medical Leave Act is the national family leave program and the California Family Rights Act provides leave for employees in California specifically. Their provisions differ somewhat but the basic principles are shared as explained by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Employees are granted up to 12 weeks of time away from work in one calendar year for qualifying family situations. This time is unpaid. However, an employee's benefits are kept intact and all job seniority and responsibility are also protected. This means that a person need not fear that they will come back to a lesser role with lower pay after taking family leave.

Elements unique to each program

Among the differences between the state and federal program is the ability under the state program to take leave in more than one continuous span of time. The state of California also allows spouses who work for the same employer to take their own set of 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. The federal statute requires that these spouses must share their 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Paid benefits option

The State of California Employment Development Department explains that the state offers employees the ability to file for benefits for paid leave to cover up to six weeks of the unpaid family leave.

This benefit must be taken at the same time as the unpaid leave in order to qualify an employee. The paid family leave provides no job protection as this is offered via the unpaid family leave programs.

Protecting one's job and future

While focusing on helping a family member, California residents should not have to worry about their jobs. Talking with an attorney before finalizing family leave plans is advised so that employees know their rights have been appropriately addressed and protected.