A coalition of employment and health advocates are conducting a survey to help improve state and workplace policies for Californians who work and support a family member, friend, or loved on with a serious health condition or disability.
The California Work and Family Coalition and Human Impact Partners are partnering on a research project to help ensure that state and workplace policies – including paid family leave – are flexible for working caregivers, particularly in communities of color.
Their effort is to help make sure workers can provide mental and physical care for their family members with serious health conditions, and be able to continue working themselves.
According to Donna Benton, Ph.D, director of the University of Southern California’s Family Caregiver Support Center, the coalition launched the survey in mid-April and hopes to complete it by the end of June. According to Benton, it’s collected approximately 100 of the 500 surveys it is seeking in English and Spanish online and via paper ballots.
“The project is really designed to help advocates and policy makers better understand what family caregivers need so that they can help campaign for change and also so that we understand what the needs are for family caregivers so that they can balance both work and family life,” said Benton.
“If we really better understand the issues and challenges, we can really move forward with better family-friendly workplace policies.”
Workers who contribute to California State Disability Insurance (SDI) may receive the paid family leave benefit which includes up to six weeks of partial pay each year while taking time off from work to bond with a newborn baby, adopted or foster child or care for a seriously ill parent, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild,
parent-in-law, spouse or registered domestic partner.
Workers who contribute to the SDI fund, in addition to wage replacement for their own temporary disability, are eligible to receive paid family leave when they are on leave to care for a seriously ill family member or to bond with a new child.
The coalition’s receiving responses from people who already have some type of generous leave in place but it needs to hear from everyone, particularly those who may not be aware of what kind of leave they have, and who may want to take paid family leave, Benton stated.
It is a great help to workers who may not have 30 paid vacation days or two weeks paid sick days per year, she said. “We really want to hear from retail workers and part-time workers and others who are all doing caregiving on a regular basis and are trying to stay employed or are employed, so that they don’t have to leave the workforce just to be a family caregiver,” Benton continued.
Benton, also a research professor of gerontology at USC, participated on a panel of health advocates who spoke to ethnic media about new improvements to paid family leave at the Employment Development Department Office on January 11.
The panel highlighted AB 908, which as of January 1, increases weekly wage replacement benefits from $50 to $1,216, depending on income, and eliminates the one-week waiting period for paid family leave claims.
“One thing that the briefing has done, I noticed, is that more people are aware, at least in California, that we have paid family leave and that they may be at smaller companies or people may not realize that they actually have this opportunity, so they’re understanding the Paid Family Leave Program better,” said Benton.
She said the collaboration between the California Work and Family Coalition and Human Impact Partners, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to transform the policies and places people need to live healthy lives by increasing the consideration of health and equity in decision-making, is very important.
“Sometimes, we think, ‘Oh! Why does anyone ever have to participate in research?’ Well, in many ways, policies are shaped by data and you can only get data through research,” said Benton.
Workers may contact the Employment Development Department directly at 1-877-238-4373 to request application or inquire about the status of an application. Applications may be submitted no earlier than nine days before and no later than 49 days after the day a worker begins leave.
Workers may contact Legal Aid at Work (1-800-880-8047) for legal questions about their right to take leave; and the California Work and Family Coalition ( firstname.lastname@example.org or 510-473-2216) for more information about paid family leave and other workplace laws.
“We’re not just asking for a survey and results. We are also giving you some resources and information about paid family leave,” said Benton.
Additional resources include:
For questions, contact the California Work and Family Coalition at email@example.com.