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Executive Summary

Over the span of a career, most working adults need time off to care for a new child or a sick family member. California policymakers, administrators, and advocates — past and present — have forged a path in building the first comprehensive paid family leave program in the nation. Since the implementation of paid leave in California in 2004, workers across the state have received $8.8 billion in payments while taking time off work to care for their loved ones. Research shows that paid family leave has been beneficial for the workers who have accessed the program and for their employers.

Even though the vast majority of workers in California contribute to the program, paid family leave often does not meet the needs of workers due to an absence of job protections and inadequate payments. Lack of job protections means that workers are not guaranteed their jobs when they return to work. Inadequate payments mean that workers — particularly those with low incomes — often cannot pay their bills if they choose to take paid leave. Moreover, the length of leave — currently just six weeks in California — may not provide enough time for workers to care for their families.

After 15 years of paid family leave, it is time to update and improve this critical program so that more Californians can benefit. Governor Newsom has pledged to expand paid family leave during his time in office, and state leaders took initial steps toward this goal as part of the 2019-20 budget agreement.

Read the full report.


  1. Executive Summary
  2. An Overview of California’s Paid Family Leave Program
  3. Why Paid Family Leave Matters
  4. Millions of Workers in California Do Not Have Access to Job-Protected Leave
  5. Paid Family Leave Payments Do Not Adequately Support Workers With Low Wages
  6. Paid Family Leave Does Not Provide Enough Time to Fully Support Workers and Their Families
  7. Policymakers Have Options in Funding an Expanded Paid Family Leave Program
  8. Conclusion: Ensuring the State’s Paid Family Leave Program Benefits All Californians 
  9. Endnotes 

Monica Davalos provided research assistance on this report. 

Support for this work is provided by First 5 California.

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