Maternity and Paternity Leave Laws in Minnesota

Many Minnesota employees have the right to pregnancy and parenting leave, even if they work for small businesses, and paid family and medical leave is coming soon.

By , J.D., UC Berkeley School of Law

If you work in Minnesota, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting. The Minnesota Parental Leave Act also allows employees to take time off when they have children. And soon, most employees in Minnesota will be able to take paid time off under the state's new paid family and medical leave law.

Two federal laws also prevent your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy and require your employer to provide reasonable accommodations—including time off if you need it. Let's take a look at how all of these laws work together to provide maternity and paternity leave in Minnesota.

Your Right to Unpaid Maternity Leave in Minnesota

There are two types of laws that can protect your job if you need pregnancy leave: laws that require pregnancy leave and laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination. Several federal and state laws protect your job and allow you to take unpaid time off during pregnancy.

Taking Family and Medical Leave in Minnesota

The federal FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for pregnancy and parenting leave (among other things). But the FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. If you qualify under the FMLA, you can use the FMLA to take time off when you can't work because of your pregnancy and childbirth.

Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA) also gives employees the right to take pregnancy and parenting leave. (Minn. Stat. §§ 181.940 to 181.944.) Like the FMLA, Minnesota's leave law allows employees to take up to 12 weeks off for pregnancy disability and parenting combined. Unlike the FMLA, however, the Minnesota law applies to virtually all employers, regardless of size or how long you've worked there. (Employees are immediately eligible for MPLA leave right after being hired.)

If you're eligible for both federal and state pregnancy and/or parental leave, you have a right to only 12 weeks of leave. You can't take leave under state law and then take FMLA leave. (After Minnesota's Paid Family and Medical Leave program starts on January 1, 2026, you'll be able to take both state and FMLA leave back-to-back if your employer agrees. (Minn. Stat. § 268B.27))

You can also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (Learn more about the eligibility requirements for taking FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)

Pregnancy Discrimination in Minnesota

The 2023 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a federal law that requires covered employers (those with 15 employees or more) to provide reasonable accommodations (including time off work and reduced schedules) to employees who need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions.

The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn't require employers to give pregnant employees time off. But the PAD does require employers to treat employees who can't work due to pregnancy the same as employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. So, if your company lets employees take time off for other temporary disabilities, like an injured hand or a bad back, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they can't work.

The Minnesota Human Rights Act includes a similar requirement. These laws can help those employees who don't qualify for time off under the FMLA or Minnesota's pregnancy leave law.

Your Right to Unpaid Parenting Leave in Minnesota

The FMLA gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. Parenting/bonding leave is part of your total 12-week FMLA leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you'll have ten weeks left for parenting leave.

Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting leave (MPLA) law works the same way: You're entitled to a total of 12 weeks for pregnancy disability and parenting. Minnesota law requires you to complete parental leave within 12 months of your child's arrival. If your child has to stay in the hospital longer than you do, the 12-month countdown starts when your child is discharged from the hospital.

Part-Time or Reduced Schedule Leave Under the FMLA and Minnesota Law

The FMLA allows employees to take their leave intermittently if it's medically necessary. For example, if you have a prenatal check-up, you don't have to take a whole day off. Instead, you can use a couple of hours of FMLA leave, then go back to work.

The same is true for pregnancy-related ailments that don't last all day. If, for instance, you have morning sickness that lives up to its name, you might need a few hours off in the morning but be able to come to work by lunchtime. Under the FMLA, this is allowed.

For parental leave, however, the rules are different. If you want to use FMLA parental leave a little at a time—for example, by returning to work half-time for a while or by taking some of your leave when the baby is born and some at a later point when your partner returns to work—your employer must agree to it. You must complete all FMLA parental leave within one year after your child's arrival.

Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting leave law doesn't address whether or not parents can take their leave intermittently. But the law does state that you can return to work part-time during the leave period without forfeiting your right to return to your former position when your leave is over.

FMLA Rules for Parents Who Work for the Same Employer

If you and your spouse work for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you. (Minnesota's parenting leave law has no such restriction.) But whatever portion of your own 12 weeks of FMLA leave you don't use for parenting will still be available to you for other reasons, including your own serious health condition.

Under the FMLA, the 12-week combined limit applies only to parents who are married to each other.

Getting Paid During Your Time Off in Minnesota

Currently, Minnesota has no paid family or medical leave program. But that's about to change.

Minnesota's Paid Family and Medical Leave Program

Starting January 1, 2026, almost all employees in Minnesota will be covered by the state's Paid Family and Medical Benefit Insurance program. The program provides paid leave and job protection.

How long does Minnesota's paid leave last? Minnesota's paid leave program will pay up to 12 weeks of medical leave or family leave per year. But you can use up to 20 weeks of combined medical and family leave if you have more than one "qualifying event" (such as childbirth and an injury) in the same claim year.

For example, let's say you take medical leave for the last two weeks of your pregnancy and for six weeks while you recover from childbirth. You'd still have 12 weeks available that year for another reason, like bonding with your new baby or caring for a sick family member.

You can take Paid Family and Medical Leave benefits in eight-hour increments or all at once.

Who is eligible for Minnesota's paid leave program? You'll be eligible for benefits after earning at least 5.3% of the state's average annual wage during your one-year base period (about $3,500). Not all employers will participate; employers can offer their own benefits if the program meets or exceeds state coverage amounts. (Minn. Stat. § 268B.10.)

How much are Minnesota's paid family leave benefits? Your benefit amount will be calculated using a rather complex formula based on your average weekly earnings and the state's average weekly wage (SAWW). In 2023, Minnesota's SAWW is $1,337.

You'll receive the following benefits based on your average earnings:

  • 90% of the wages you earn that are 50% of the state's average weekly wage or less, plus
  • 66% of the wages you earn that are between 51% and 99% of the SAWW, and
  • 55% of your wages over 100% of the SAWW.

The maximum weekly benefit allowed equals the state average weekly earnings. Don't worry about making the calculations; Minnesota's Employment and Economic Development Department will release an online benefit calculator when benefits become available.

Learn more about what to expect when the paid leave program begins in 2026.

Getting Paid Before Minnesota's Paid Leave Benefits Start

Until the new benefit program begins, your job will be protected during unpaid time off for pregnancy and parenting under the FMLA and Minnesota's pregnancy and parenting leave law.

But to get paid, you'll have to use accrued paid time off (like sick days, vacation time, or PTO) during your leave. (And your employer might require you to use this paid time off.) But once the paid leave program begins, employers can no longer require you to exhaust your accrued PTO, vacation, or sick days. (Minn. Stat. § 268B.27.)

Some employers currently offer special benefits for their employees, such as:

Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.

You also have the option to buy a private short-term disability insurance policy that covers pregnancy.

Minnesota Laws on Reasonable Accommodations During Pregnancy

When employees work while pregnant, Minnesota gives them the right to reasonable accommodations: changes to their position or work rules that will allow them to do their jobs. If you're pregnant and you ask for it, your employer must provide all of the following accommodations:

  • more frequent and longer breaks
  • seating, even for jobs that are normally done standing, and
  • a lifting limit of 20 pounds.

You don't have to show that your health care provider has prescribed these accommodations to be entitled to them, and your employer can't refuse your request. (Minn. Stat. § 181.939)

In addition, your employer must provide other accommodations if your health care provider or doula advises you that you need them, such as:

  • a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position
  • a modified work schedule or tasks, or
  • a temporary leave of absence.

The only time an employer can refuse to comply with an accommodation request of this type is when providing the accommodation would create an "undue hardship" for the business.

Updated August 9, 2023

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