Basic Eligibility for Your Employees

Learn about employee eligibility requirements for Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave.

Note: Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave provide benefit payments but not job protection. However, job protection may be covered through other federal or state laws such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Disability Insurance

Disability Insurance (DI) provides short-term wage replacement benefits to eligible California workers.

Your employee may be eligible for DI if they:

  • Have a qualifying illness or injury.
  • Have elective surgery.
  • Are pregnant.
  • Are recovering from childbirth.

DI benefits can be paid only after your employees meet the following requirements:

  • They can’t do their usual work for at least eight consecutive days.
  • They are employed or looking for work at the time they become disabled.
  • They lost wages because of their disability or, if unemployed, have been looking for work.
  • They earned at least $300 that had State Disability Insurance (SDI) deductions withheld during their base period.
  • They are under the care and treatment of a licensed physician/practitioner or an accredited religious practitioner during the first eight days of their disability. (The beginning date of a claim can be adjusted to meet this requirement.) They must remain under care and treatment to continue getting benefits.
  • A physician/practitioner must complete the medical certification of their disability.
    • A nurse practitioner can certify to a disability within his/her scope of practice. However, he/she must perform a physical examination and collaborate with a licensed physician or surgeon.
    • A licensed midwife, nurse-midwife, or nurse practitioner may complete the medical certification for disabilities related to normal pregnancy or childbirth.
    • If your employee is under the care of an accredited religious practitioner, they may download and print the Claim for Disability Insurance Benefits-Religious Practitioner’s Certificate (DE 502) (PDF).

Note: Citizenship and immigration status do not affect eligibility.

An independent medical examination to determine the individual’s initial or continuing eligibility may be required.

Your employee may apply for benefits even if they are not sure they are eligible. They will be notified if we find they are not eligible for all or part of a period claimed. Your employee might not be eligible for DI benefits if they:

  • Are claiming or receiving Unemployment Insurance or Paid Family Leave benefits.
  • Became disabled while committing a crime resulting in a felony conviction.
  • Are in jail, prison, recovery home, or any other place because they were convicted of a crime.
  • Are receiving workers’ compensation benefits at a weekly rate equal to or greater than the DI rate.
  • Fail to have an independent medical examination when requested to do so.

Paid Family Leave

Employees may be eligible for Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits if they lose wages when they need to take time off work for family leave.

Employees covered by DI are also covered for PFL. If a Voluntary Plan insurer provides your company’s DI coverage, then it must also provide PFL coverage.

An employee may submit a claim for PFL insurance benefits for the following reasons:

  • To care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, spouse, or registered domestic partner.
  • To bond with a new child entering the family through birth, adoption, or foster care placement of the child with the employee or the employee’s spouse or registered domestic partner.
  • To participate in a qualifying event because of the military deployment of their spouse, registered domestic partner, parent, or child to a foreign country.

To qualify for PFL benefits, your employee must meet the following requirements:

  • They can’t do their regular or customary work due to their need for family leave.
  • They are employed or actively looking for work at the time their family leave begins.
  • They lost wages because of their need to take family leave.
  • They earned at least $300 from which State Disability Insurance (SDI) deductions were withheld during their base period.
  • They must complete and submit their claim form no earlier than the first day their family leave begins, but no later than 41 days after their family leave begins or they may lose benefits.
  • They must provide all supplemental documentation required for bonding, care, or military assist claims.
  • They must provide a medical certificate on their care claim for the seriously ill family member. The certificate must be completed by the care recipient's physician/practitioner.

Note: Citizenship and immigration status do not affect eligibility.

A serious health condition is defined as:

  • An illness, injury, or physical or mental condition that requires inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential medical care facility.
  • Continuing treatment in connection with inpatient care; or continuing treatment by a physician/practitioner.

Cosmetic treatments and common illnesses like the cold, earaches, upset stomach, and headaches (other than migraine) are examples of conditions that do not meet the definition of a serious health condition for purposes of PFL benefits.

Employers with employees working in San Francisco: You may be required to supplement employee wages under the San Francisco Paid Parental Leave for Bonding with New Child Ordinance. For more information, view the Paid Parental Leave Ordinance

Your employee may not be eligible for PFL benefits if they:

  • Receive Disability Insurance, Unemployment Insurance, or workers’ compensation.
  • Are not working or looking for work at the time they begin their family leave.
  • Have not lost wages.
  • Are in custody due to conviction of a crime.
  • Cannot provide certification by the treating physician/practitioner that they are needed for care.

Last Revised: 10/14/2021

Register for Benefit Programs Online

Creating an account is an important step in this process. With Benefit Programs Online, you can apply for Disability Insurance (DI) and manage your claim in SDI Online.

Additional Resources

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