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  • Writer's pictureCC Li

Overview of Parental Leave Benefits in California

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

Exciting, this is the very first post from Penguin Benefits! We are on a journey to demystify everything related to parental benefits.

By design, “Parental Leave” is loosely defined in this post’s title, it is used as an all-encompassing term. There are many terms that you may have heard, such as maternity leave, paternity leave, bonding leave, paid family leave(PFL), pregnancy disability leave(PDL), family medical care leave (FMLA), California Family Rights Act (CRFA), State Disability Insurance (SDI), etc.. Some of these terms sound similar, yet their nuanced differences impact your parental leave. I am starting this series of posts to systematically explain all aspects of Parental Leave, so you will know exactly which components make up your parental leave. Let’s start!

Defining Characteristics of Parental Leave

I boiled down all benefits into two defining characteristics: Cause for Leave, and Benefits During Leave.

Characteristic 1: Cause for Leave

The two causes for parental leave are bonding, and disability (To those who are as confused as I once was: yes, some periods of pregnancy and post-partum recovery is considered “disability” for purposes of going on maternity leave and claiming disability insurance to replace your income during leave.)

1. Bonding Leave: Both the father and the mother, as well as adoptive/foster parents can go on bonding leave, to bond with the baby!

2. Disability Leave: Only the mother may go on disability leave, when experiencing symptoms during pregnancy that prevent her from working, or when recovering after giving birth. The father, or adoptive/foster parents, cannot go on this leave.

Characteristic 2: Benefits During Leave

During each leave, regardless of whether it is for bonding or disability, there are four main types of protection/benefits that may apply. These are:

1. Job Protection: Laws that require the employer to allow you to return to a comparable position after the leave and maintain your health insurance coverage during the leave.

2. Mandatory Wage Replacement: Mandated by state or municipalities, these are insurance payments to partially or fully replace your wage during a certain period of the leave.

3. Voluntary Wage Replacement : This is voluntarily set up by your employer. Not all employers offer these benefits. Some would replace (and are better than) the mandatory state benefit programs, some would pay benefits that supplement (i.e. in addition to) state insurance benefits.

4. Other Income Supplements: Your employer may have sick leave policies, paid time off policies, or other holiday pays that may be used for sustaining your pay during the leave. The extent that employers allow, or require, the use of paid time off varies from employer to employer.

Putting it all together

So, we just discussed that there are 2 main causes for leave, and for each of these causes, there are 4 main types of benefits during leave, I’m using a 4 X 2 table below to summarize these leave benefits terms you may have heard.

Summary of Benefits

For details on each benefit, you can click on the links in this table to learn more.

(I'll be explaining details on each benefit in a series of posts. Subscribe to our Benefits Resources updates at the bottom of this page.)

So what does all this mean for you?

Your eligibility for these benefits depends on many factors (e.g. the type of birth delivery method or complications, work history with your employer, work history in California, if you took leave recently to care for another family member or childbirth, etc.). Employers' leave and benefits policies can greatly vary from one to another. In addition, each family has a different situation and need, so the parental leave plan for the coworker sitting next to you may not work well for you because you may have different work or leave histories and needs.

It is quite rare for someone to be eligible for all types of benefits listed above. To help you determine what is applicable to you, I’ll compiled the eligibility requirements in the second post of this series.

You can let our smart engine customize the right California parental leave plan for you.

#PenguinforParents #MaternityLeave #ParentalLeave #BondingLeave #PaternityLeave #FMLA #CFRA #PDL #PFL #SDI #VDI


[1] CFRA is usually allowed for bonding, but may be allowed for disability reasons under certain circumstances. [2] If an employer offers a VDI, it would also offer a component within the VDI for wage replacement during bonding.

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