❌ Boosting family leave payments

Image via iStock

By Sameea Kamal


AB 123 would gradually increase the percentage of wages replaced when a Californian takes paid family leave from at least 60% to 70% to 90% of a worker’s highest quarterly earnings in the past 12 months. It’s carried by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat.


The bill is backed by groups who advocate for workers’ rights, for retirees, women’s health and for early childhood development — all of whom benefit from policies that allow employees to take the time needed to care for family members. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed bills expanding family leave in 2019 and 2020.


Some business groups, although the bill does not increase employer contributions into the state family leave fund. The Central Valley Business Federation says the bill is a bad deal for workers because it would take more money out of paychecks, increasing the amount deducted by 0.1% to 0.2% per year.


Under current law, California’s paid family leave is often being used by higher-income employees who can more easily afford going without full pay. In 2019, $287 million of the $1.1 billion the state paid out went to those making $100,000 or more a year. This bill would make it more realistic for low-income earners to use the leave that they’re required to fund with 1.2% of every paycheck. A worker making the minimum wage would receive $364 a week; the maximum benefit is $1,300 a week for as long as eight weeks.  


Gov. Newsom vetoed the bill on Sept. 28. In his veto message, he said he had supported expanding family leave, but said: “This bill would create significant new costs not included in the 2021 Budget Act and would result in higher disability contributions paid by employees. I look forward to continued partnership with the Legislature to ensure that workers have true access to programs providing family leave.”