How to Claim Disability for Maternity Leave in California

By Mary Jane Freeman
A pregnant woman at work filling out her calendar for maternity leave.

California provides state disability insurance, or SDI, to employees who cannot work due to a non-work disability, including pregnancy. This enables pregnant women to take time off and still collect a percentage of their regular income. Generally, maternity leave can begin up to four weeks before your expected delivery date and last up to six weeks after. Once the baby is here, you can extend your leave by an additional six weeks by using Paid Family Leave, or PFL, benefits, also available under the SDI program. Applications for either may be submitted online or by mail.

Using Disability Insurance for Maternity Leave

Maternity leave is available in the form of disability benefits from the SDI program. If there are medical complications, you cannot resume your regular work duties or you deliver your child by Cesarean section, your doctor may certify that you need a longer time off than what the law provides. You can submit a claim for SDI benefits once you can no longer perform your job duties because of the pregnancy, as confirmed by your doctor. The amount of your weekly disability payment will be 55 percent of your usual earnings, up to the maximum amount allowed of $1,104 for claims that begin after Jan. 1, 2015. There are different calculations for self-employed people and people in an alcohol or drug treatment facility.

Submission of Disability Claim Form

To apply for SDI benefits, mail a completed form DE 2501, Claim for Disability Insurance Benefits, to the Employment Development Department. You can request the form online via the "Online Forms and Publications" page of the EDD's website or by calling EDD at 800-480-3287. You can also apply for benefits online via the "State Disability Insurance (SDI) Online" page of the EDD's website. Complete "Part A -- Claimant's Statement." If applying by mail, have your doctor complete "Part B -- Physician Practitioner's Statement" before turning the form in. If you're applying online, your doctor can log in separately and complete this portion of your SDI application.

Eligibility for Paid Family Leave Benefits

After giving birth to your child, you can convert your disability benefits to PFL benefits. Your weekly benefit amount will be the same as it was for disability -- 55 percent of your usual earnings up to the maximum benefit amount per week. The purpose of these benefits is to give you time to bond with your child. PFL benefits must be taken within the first year after your child's birth, so supporting documentation from your doctor will be required. You can receive up to six weeks of PFL benefits; there is a one-week waiting period before payments begin. If you have accumulated paid time off or vacation leave, your boss may require you to use up to two weeks of it before you may collect PFL benefits. In this case, either one week of paid time off or vacation leave will be applied to the one-week waiting period so you won't have to go without pay during that time.

Converting Disability to Paid Family Leave Benefits

You cannot receive PFL benefits at the same time as disability if doing so would cause you to exceed the permitted weekly benefit amount. Therefore, when you apply for PFL, you may want to designate a claim start date after your disability payments are scheduled to end. You can apply for PFL by completing and mailing form DE-2501, Claim for Paid Family Leave (PFL) Benefits, to EDD. You can also file online via the "State Disability Insurance (SDI) Online" page of the EDD's website. Complete "Part A -- Statement of Claimant" and "Part B -- Bonding Certification." Include any supporting documentation needed.

About the Author

Based on the West Coast, Mary Jane Freeman has been writing professionally since 1994, specializing in the topics of business and law. Freeman's work has appeared in a variety of publications, including LegalZoom, Essence, Reuters and Chicago Sun-Times. Freeman holds a Master of Science in public policy and management and Juris Doctor. Freeman is self-employed and works as a policy analyst and legal consultant.