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California is seeking to educate new dads about family leave

California has one of the most generous paid family leave programs of any state in the country. However, not everyone knows how much leave they're entitled to take. This lack of awareness is particularly concerning when it involves new fathers.

The California Employment Development Department [EDD] is working to educate new dads on the state's Paid Family Leave program. The program mandates that new parents (of biological, adopted and foster children) be paid up to 70% of their regular wages for up to six weeks of leave so that they can more easily take time off to bond with their new children. Gov. Gavin Newsom is seeking to extend that to eight weeks and eventually longer.

The number of fathers taking advantage of the program, which is funded by payroll deductions, has increased over the last decade. However, as of last year, just 38 percent of all "bonding" claims were made by men. The EDD wants to raise that number. Even as men play an increasingly significant role in the care of their newborns, a recent study of fathers throughout the U.S. found that over three-quarters take no more than a week's leave to care for a new child.

To implement his goal of extending Paid Family Leave benefits, Gov. Newsom and members of the state legislature have worked to add a "trailer bill" to the state's budget. It's one of about a dozen bills that have been added to the budget and will be become law when Newsom signs it. The bill would also provide funds for a task force to study a potential increase in leave time to as long as six months.

As with many issues, views about increased paid family leave are divided along party lines. Many Republican legislators have argued that the increase in leave time would raise payroll tax deductions. They say this will hit lower-income workers the hardest.

If you're a new parent or need family leave to care for a parent, older child, spouse or another family member, it's essential to know what your rights are under both state and federal law. If your employer is not allowing you the leave to which you're entitled or penalizing you for taking it, it's wise to consult an experienced attorney.

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