When California passed its Paid Family Leave Act, it became the first state in the nation to make paid family leave available to virtually every private sector worker, a distinction it still shares with just one other state. The hope was that this groundbreaking legislation would provide access to paid leave for family caregiving for the vast sectors of the workforce – particularly low-wage workers – that have little or no access to paid sick days, paid vacation, or paid parental or family leave.
A recent CEPR-CUNY study based on a poll of California voters found that well under half (42.7%) of respondents had seen, read or heard of the PFL program. Even among those who had voted in the previous general election, just 44.9 percent knew about the program. This is an important improvement over the 29.7 percent of voters who knew about PFL in 2003. The increase in awareness over the past eight years occurred overwhelmingly among women. This may be due to the fact that the state now informs new mothers about the paid family leave program. Nevertheless, it is worrying that awareness of paid family leave is lowest among those workers who need it most – Black and Latino workers, and workers with lower wages or less education. The Poll results indicate clearly that more needs to be done to reach these workers.
Providing doctors with brochures that explain the program and requiring them to display the information prominently in their offices would help. Making the brochures available at WIC centers, which help new mothers and babies meet their nutrition needs, is another way to let low-income workers know about the program.