Do I get more time off work in California if I had a C-section?

Question:

I work in California, and I'm pregnant. The HR department just gave me a bunch of forms and information about my upcoming maternity leave, including a pamphlet about benefits I can receive from the state during my time off. Do I get more time off or more benefits if I have a difficult pregnancy? My doctor thinks I'll need to have a Caesarian section, and I may be unable to work for a period of time before having the baby.

Answer:

How much time you get off from work and how long you can collect benefits through the state are actually two separate questions. The answer to both depends on how long you are actually disabled by pregnancy and childbirth.

A variety of federal and California laws give employees the right to take time off work for pregnancy and parental leave. These include the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), and California's pregnancy disability leave law. These laws don't require your employer to pay you for this time off, however.

California's pregnancy disability law requires most employers (those with five or more employees) to give employees time off while they are temporarily disabled by pregnancy and childbirth. Under this law, you may take up to four months off, depending on how complicated your pregnancy and childbirth are (the exact length of time is typically determined by your doctor).

Under the FMLA and CFRA, employees who work for larger employers (those with 50 or more employees) may take up to 12 weeks off to bond with a new child. This leave is in addition to any time off taken under California's pregnancy disability leave law. In other words, women in California can take up to seven months of combined parental and pregnancy leave, depending on how disabling the pregnancy was. (The FMLA and CFRA also imposes some eligibility requirements for employees; see Family and Medical Leave in California for more information.)

California also has two insurance programs that may provide you with some benefits during this time off. The state disability insurance (SDI) program provides benefits while a woman is disabled by pregnancy, and the paid family leave (PFL) program provides benefits during parental bonding leave. (These programs deal only with benefits; they don't give the right to take time off work or to be reinstated after the leave is over.)

According to California's Employment Development Department (EDD), the agency that enforces these programs, SDI benefits typically continue for about ten weeks in the case of a normal pregnancy: four weeks before birth and six weeks after. For a Caesarian section or other medical complications, your doctor may certify that you are unable to work for a longer period of time. PFL benefits are typically available for up to six weeks. To learn more about the SDI and PFL programs, check out the State Disability Insurance Program page at the EDD's website.

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