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Many of California's Caregivers Don't Use Paid-Leave Benefit

Most who are eligible are ignorant about its existence or provisions

Woman caregiver pushes man in a wheelchair

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Despite a comprehensive paid-leave benefit allowed for caregivers under California law, for a variety of reasons many caregivers don’t take advantage of the provisions, a new report by the California Work and Family Commission reveals.

The statewide survey found, for instance, that only 31 percent of eligible caregivers have a basic understanding of the law, under which residents can take paid leave for up to six weeks to care for close relatives as well as in-laws, grandparents and registered domestic partners.

Workers pay into the system, and if they draw from it to provide care for a loved one, they receive wages, though they are lower (60 to 70 percent of wages up to $1,216 per week) than what they would make if they kept their regular job.

By contrast, state and federal conventional leave laws allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid time. But the family-paid-leave law does not guarantee job protection.

Besides ignorance of the provisions, caregivers gave a number of other reasons for not exercising their rights under the law.

  • Lower wage replacement: Caregivers can lose up to one-third of their income by giving up their job temporarily.
  • Job instability: Because the paid-leave law doesn’t provide employment protection, caregivers fear losing their position.
  • Employer's negative perception: Caregivers worry that their employer might retaliate by giving them a worse schedule or not promoting them.
  • Complicated application process: Possible applicants said the process can be difficult and confusing.
  • Stigma of government assistance: This is a concern even though the program is fully funded by the employees who choose to take part.

The study authors recommend that businesses better educate employees about the law.

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