California State Disability Insurance (SDI)

Eligibility and Application

Paying into SDI

If you're like most employees in California, you have State Disability Insurance (SDI) taxes automatically taken out of your paycheck. This means that each time you get paid, 1.2% of your wages go to the SDI program. These taxes are also called SDI contributions.

SDI taxes are paid on income of up to $128,298 a year, which means you don't pay SDI tax on anything you earn above that amount. Another way of thinking about this is that the most anyone might have to pay into SDI for 2021 is $1,539.58 (which is 1.2% of $128,298).

Example

Your paycheck is $1,000 before taxes. Every time you get a paycheck, 1.2% of that goes automatically to SDI. In this case, that’s $12.00. If you get this paycheck every two weeks for a year, you’ll end up paying $312 to SDI every year.

Millions of Californians are covered by SDI. Their contributions go into a state fund, and that money is used to pay SDI benefits.

Who Is Not Covered By SDI

Most California employees are covered by SDI, but some aren't.

Those who are not covered include:

  • Most government workers, like federal, state, county, or city employees. Some government workers are covered by Non-industrial Disability Insurance (NDI). Learn more about NDI.
  • Some domestic workers
  • Interstate Railroad employees
  • Some employees of non-profit organizations
  • Self-employed workers or business owners who do not pay for Elective Coverage

Types of SDI Plans

There are three different SDI plans.

1. Most California employees are covered by the State Plan, which includes Paid Family Leave. This is the SDI plan described in this section.

2. Some employers offer Voluntary Plans. These are private disability insurance plans that have been approved by SDI. These plans must offer coverage that’s at least as good as the State Plan plus at least one feature that the State Plan doesn’t include. The private plan cannot be more expensive than the State Plan, and it has to be approved by a majority of employees. Learn more about Voluntary Plans.

3. If you are self-employed or a business owner, you can buy Elective Coverage through SDI. Some of the rules are different. For example, Elective Coverage is only for 39 weeks, and premiums are based on a percentage of your profit from the previous year. Learn more about Elective Coverage.

Eligibility for the SDI Benefit

SDI gives you a cash benefit if you have paid payroll taxes into it and can’t work for one of these reasons:

  • You have a disability not related to your job. SDI defines disability as “any mental or physical illness or injury which prevents you from performing your regular and customary work.” This is a less strict definition than the one used by the federal Social Security Disability Insurance program (SSDI).
  • You need to take Paid Family Leave (PFL), which replaces part of your income when you miss work to care for a sick relative or to bond with a new child. Learn more about who can get Paid Family Leave.
  • You are pregnant. Although pregnancy isn’t an “illness or injury”, it is a medical reason for missing work. Important: Pregnancy disability leave is not covered in this article. If you have questions about it, contact the EDD.

You also have to meet the following requirements:

  • If you have a job, you must have a disability or miss work for more than 7 days before your benefits start.
    • Note: There is no waiting period for Paid Family Leave (PFL).
  • If you’re currently unemployed, you have to be actively looking for work.
  • You have to be under the care of a medical provider during the first 8 days of your disability and stay under a medical provider’s care while you’re getting SDI benefits.
  • You have to have earned at least $300 in wages during your base period.

When you file your claim, you must list the day you became unable to work due to your disability, which becomes both the official day your disability began and your claim start date. This date is used to decide if you meet all of these requirements. After your claim is filed, your start date cannot be changed.

COVID-19 and SDI/PFL

If you are sick due to COVID-19, you may qualify for SDI benefits. If you are caring for somebody who is sick due to COVID-19, you may qualify for PFL. See EDD's questions and answers about COVID-19 and the state of California's chart of all the different benefits that may help families impacted by COVID-19.

Application Process

The SDI program is run by California's Employment Development Department (EDD).

For a non-work-related injury or illness

To get SDI benefits when you are unable to work because of a non-work-related injury or illness, you can apply:

The earliest you can submit your application is 9 days after your disability began (you became unable to work), and you must apply within 49 days of when your disability began, or you might not get benefits. If you apply after 49 days, include a letter explaining why you are filing late.

The application has two parts: you fill out Part A and your doctor/medical practitioner fills out Part B, the medical certifcation of your disability. Your claim will not be processed until both Part A and Part B have been correctly submitted.

You are responsible for getting your doctor/medical practitioner to fill out Part B, which can be done online or by mail. Not all medical offices handle SDI claims the same way, so ask your doctor/medical practitioner's office what you need to do to have them submit their part of your SDI claim.

For Paid Family Leave

The forms to apply for Paid Family Leave are different, but the options for applying are the same:

There are several parts to the PFL application. You must complete Part A; the person you are caring for must sign page 2 and complete Part C (if they are unable to do this, call 1-877-238-4373 for instructions and required forms); and the doctor/medical practitioner for the person you are caring for must complete and sign Part D.

Note: If there are no problems with your forms, you’ll usually start getting SDI or PFL benefits about two weeks after submitting your claim. Do not file more than one copy of the same claim, as this makes it take longer for you to get benefits.

If you get turned down for SDI or PFL

If SDI decides you don't qualify for SDI or PFL benefits, they send you a Disqualification Notice and an Appeal From. You have 30 days from the date of the notice to appeal SDI's decision online or in writing. EDD will look at your appeal, and either decide to give you benefit payments or send your appeal to the local Office of Appeals of the California Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, which will schedule a hearing.

EDD has instructions for filing an appeal and preparing for a hearing.

Learn more