A number of laws in New Hampshire help mothers and fathers take time off for pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, and parenting.
The New Hampshire "Law Against Discrimination" requires employers to allow employees to take time off while they're unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. But it doesn't require employers to give you parenting leave and it doesn't guarantee you paid leave for pregnancy or maternity.
If you or your employer participate in New Hampshire's Paid Family and Medical Leave plan, you can get paid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting—with certain restrictions and limitations.
If you work for an employer covered by the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you have the right to take unpaid leave for parenting (paternity or maternity leave) as well as for pregnancy and childbirth. And the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which might also give you the right to take time off work.
Here's what you need to know about your rights under federal law and New Hampshire's maternity and parental leave laws.
A mix of federal and state laws exist that might protect you if you need to take time off during your pregnancy. For the most part, these laws treat pregnancy and childbirth like other temporary disabilities.
New Hampshire's Law Against Discrimination requires employers with at least six employees to provide pregnancy disability leave to all employees. If you work for a company with at least six employees, and you're temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, you can take time off for as long as you're disabled.
Once you're able to return to work, the law requires your employee to give you your job back or put you in a comparable position, unless this is impossible or unreasonable for the employer due to "business necessity."
The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) doesn't specifically require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. But the law does require your employer to treat employees who can't work due to pregnancy the same way it treats employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons.
So, if your company lets an employee take time off for a serious illness or injury, it has to allow you to take the same time off if you can't work due to pregnancy or childbirth. And if your employer offers light duty assignments to accommodate other employees' temporary disabilities, you're entitled to the same accommodations if you need them due to pregnancy.
And the 2023 Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who need them due to pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Under the PWFA, reasonable accommodations can include taking leave or time off work when it's medically necessary.
But the federal PDA and PWFA apply only to employers with at least 15 employees.
The FMLA gives eligible employees in New Hampshire the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for serious health conditions—including pregnancy—and parenting leave (among other things). To be eligible for FMLA protections, you must:
You don't have to take FMLA leave all at once. You can use just a few hours of leave at a time if necessary. For instance, you can take a few hours off work for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. Or if you have morning sickness, you might need a few hours off in the morning, but be able to go to work by lunchtime.
New Hampshire state law doesn't require employers to provide parenting leave, but the federal FMLA gives most employees in New Hampshire the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster.
Your parenting leave would be part of the 12 weeks of leave per year that you're entitled to take under the FMLA. So, if you use seven weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you'll have five weeks left to use for parenting leave.
And if your employer agrees to it, you can use your FMLA parenting leave a little at a time. For example, you might take some of your leave when your baby is born and some at a later point, like when your partner returns to work.
But if you're married to someone who works for the same company, you might have to share your 12 weeks of parental leave with your spouse. Under the FMLA, your employer can limit the amount of parental leave both you and your spouse can take to a total of 12 weeks. So, if you use six weeks of FMLA parental leave, your spouse would only have six weeks of FMLA leave available to use for parenting.
Whatever portion of your 12 weeks of FMLA leave you don't use for parenting will still be available to you for other reasons—like your own serious health condition, including recovering from childbirth.
For instance, when your child is born, you could take six weeks of medical leave (to recover) and another six weeks of parental leave to bond with your newborn. And your spouse would still have six weeks of parental leave available plus six weeks to be used for other reasons.
Learn what to do if your employer denies your right to FMLA parental leave.
New Hampshire is one of a handful of states that offers paid medical and family leave. But not everyone is covered.
The New Hampshire Paid Family and Medical Leave (NH PFML) plan provides wage replacement for up to six weeks per year for:
If you're eligible for NH PFML benefits, you'll receive 60% of your average earnings up to the maximum Social Security benefit amount ($3,627 a month in 2023). But even if you're a covered employee, you can't get NH PFML benefits for pregnancy or parental leave during:
Any time you take off under the NH PFML plan counts against your 12 weeks of FMLA leave. So if you've already used all your FMLA leave for the year, you can't get NH PFML benefits until you become eligible for FMLA leave again.
Also, New Hampshire's paid leave program is voluntary. So, your employer can decide whether or not to participate. If your employer doesn't participate, you still have the right to buy into the plan through payroll deduction.
If you're not eligible for paid leave under New Hampshire's PFML plan, any time off you take under the FMLA or New Hampshire's Law Against Discrimination is unpaid leave. But you might be able to use your accrued sick days, vacation, or PTO so that you can get paid during at least some of your time off. (Your employer can actually require you to use these benefits when you take time off.)
Your employer might also offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or your manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.
What if you aren't covered by the NH PFML plan and your employer doesn't provide a group short-term disability policy? You can purchase disability insurance that covers pregnancy and childbirth directly from a private insurance company. Learn more about how to buy short-term disability insurance that covers pregnancy.
Updated August 8, 2023