Family and medical leave—also called maternity, paternity, or parental leave—allows employees to take time off from work to care for a new child (biological, adopted, or fostered) without having to worry about losing their jobs. Family leave can be private or public (provided by the state or federal government) and it can be paid or unpaid. The benefits provided by the different types of leave often overlap.
A federal law called the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy and bonding with a new child.
Not all employees are covered by the FMLA. In order to be eligible for FMLA leave, you must:
The FMLA sets the minimum standard for leave, but many states offer their own version of the FMLA that is more generous than the federal law. If you're employed in one of these states, you're entitled to greater benefits than allowed under federal law.
People taking leave due to pregnancy and childbirth enjoy additional protection under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The PDA prevents employers with at least fifteen employees from making employment-related decisions based on the employee's pregnancy. If you were passed over for a promotion at work and you can show that your employer's decision was based on the time you took off for childbirth, you could have a claim under the PDA.
States can choose to provide more benefits than the federal laws. Some states (Hawaii, Maine, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin) offer unpaid leave but:
Hawaii's law requires that employers provide temporary disability insurance to qualifying employees, which can be used for pregnancy and childbirth.
Eleven states (and the District of Columbia) have laws establishing paid family leave for employees, so that they can bond with their new child. Many of these states also offer short-term disability benefits for pregnancy and childbirth. To qualify for these benefits, you need to meet certain eligibility requirements, like earning a minimum amount in the past year.
Private short-term disability insurance, state family leave, and federal unpaid family leave provide different benefits (and can overlap). Check your state's regulations for further details.
Some states provide publicly funded short-term paid disability benefits for people who are pregnant, in addition to parental leave for bonding with a new child. These programs usually require you to show that you're unable to work because of your pregnancy, and the agencies that administer them will want a note from your doctor saying that you can't work.
If your state doesn't provide short-term paid disability, your employer might offer private short-term disability insurance as a benefit. Pregnancy and childbirth, and any complications, are usually covered under these policies. Private disability insurance providers will generally pay you a percentage of your income while you're out on leave. The exact percentage varies by provider and plan.
If you live in a state with public paid short-term disability and you also have a private disability policy, your private insurer might pay out a smaller benefit than it would if you did not also have the state policy, depending on how much the state contributes.
The standard for pregnancy leave is two weeks prior to delivery and six weeks after, but the duration will vary depending on your state, your private insurance policy, and any complications that arose from your pregnancy. After your paid disability leave runs out, you're entitled to take at least 12 unpaid weeks under the FMLA. Depending on your state, you might be eligible for paid leave as well.
As of the date of this publication, a dozen jurisdictions currently offer public paid family and medical leave. In those states, if your employer doesn't offer short-term disability insurance, you might qualify for one of the state's programs. The following states offer paid short-term disability benefits for pregnancy or paid family leave for a new child.
California offers two paid short-term disability programs for new parents.
Colorado voters approved Proposition 118 in November of 2020, creating the state-run Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance (FAMLI) program. The program will become effective on January 1, 2024, and will offer eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid leave. Those who experience pregnancy or childbirth complications can qualify for an additional four weeks.
Connecticut provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who have met certain earnings requirements (at least $2,325 within a specific timeframe) and who've worked in Connecticut for at least 12 weeks before taking leave. The benefit amount is based on the percentage of your earnings that exceeds minimum wage, but is capped at $780 per week.
The District of Columbia provides paid family leave to all employees who've spent more than 50% of their time working in DC (including teleworking or telecommuting) at least 12 months before taking leave. The Paid Leave Act provides up to:
The benefit amount depends on your average weekly wage, but the maximum available is $1,099 per week (indexed to inflation). For more information, see our article on parental leave laws in the District of Columbia.
Employees in Delaware will be able to take paid leave starting on January 1, 2026, as a result of the Healthy Delaware Families Act, signed into law on May 10, 2022. The Act provides for up to 12 weeks per year of paid leave to care for a child during the first year after the child's birth, adoption, or foster placement. The benefit will provide up to 80% wage replacement for people who have worked 1,250 hours in the previous year for a Delaware employer.
Hawaii has a Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) law requiring that large private employers provide short-term disability benefits for pregnancy. To be eligible for TDI, you need a doctor's note stating that you can't work while pregnant. You also need to meet all of the following eligibility requirements:
The benefit is 58% of your average weekly wage, up to $640 per week, for a maximum of 26 weeks. For more information, see our article on Hawaii's TDI benefits.
Paid leave will be available in Maryland beginning on January 1, 2025, as a result of the Maryland legislature passing the Time to Care Act on April 9, 2022. The act establishes a program for paid family leave of up to 12 weeks to take care of a new child. The benefit will be available for people who've worked at least 680 hours in the year before taking leave. The exact amount of the benefit is calculated from percentages of both your average weekly earnings and the statewide average, but the maximum you can receive is $1,000 per week, indexed to inflation.
Employees in Massachusetts are eligible for up to 22 weeks of paid leave per year. For pregnancy, 20 weeks of medical leave is available if a health care provider certifies that your pregnancy is preventing you from working. Twelve weeks of paid family leave to bond with your child is available to parents or legal guardians.
The earnings requirement to qualify for this benefit is at least $5,700 per year (as of 2022), and the earnings must be 30 times the benefit amount. The exact amount of the benefit is calculated from percentages of both your average weekly earnings and the statewide average, but the maximum you can receive is $1,084 per week
New Jersey has two paid short-term disability programs available to new parents.
For 2022, you must have earned $240 per week for 20 weeks, or $12,000 in a year, to qualify for these programs. The benefit can be up to 85% of your average weekly earnings. For more information, see our article on New Jersey Short-Term Disability and Pregnancy.
New York has two paid short-term disability programs available to new parents.
To qualify for the above NY programs, you must have worked full-time for 26 weeks for a single employer, or worked part-time for 175 days. Learn more about New York's paid family leave benefits.
Under Rhode Island's Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program, new parents can receive up to five weeks of paid leave at 60% of their average weekly wage. (This amount is set to increase to six weeks in 2023.) Rhode Island also has a Temporary Disability Insurance program for people whose doctor certifies that they can't work during pregnancy.
For claims filed after December 31, 2021, you can be eligible for these RI programs if you've earned at least $14,700 in a year. If you haven't, you can still qualify for these programs under a more complicated earnings calculation. The benefit is 60% of your average weekly wage, taken from the three-month period with your highest earnings. The maximum weekly amount of the benefit is $978. Learn more about Rhode Island's paid family leave benefits.
Starting September 3, 2023, Oregonians will be able to take 12 weeks of paid leave to bond with a child after birth, adoption, or foster placement, with an additional 2 weeks of paid leave available for pregnancy or childbirth. The program is available to anyone who earned $1,000 in the year before taking leave. The benefit amount is calculated based on a combination of your average earnings and the average earnings in the state, but it's capped at $1,446 per week.
The State of Washington offers paid family leave for employees who have worked at least 16 hours per week for the year before taking leave. If you qualify, you can receive:
The benefit amount can be up to 90% of your average weekly pay, with a maximum of $1,327 per week. You can read more about Washington's paid family leave here.
Updated June 15, 2022