Do you need time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, or parenting? If you work in New Jersey, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and New Jersey's parental leave law give you the right to take unpaid leave for these reasons. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) and New Jersey law also prohibit your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which may give you the right to take time off work in some cases. And, New Jersey is one of only a handful of states that have a paid leave program for both temporary disability (including pregnancy) and parenting.
There are two types of laws that might protect your job if you need pregnancy leave: laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and laws that require pregnancy leave.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn't require employers to give pregnant employees time off work, but it does require employers to treat employees unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for temporary disabilities like broken bones or heart attacks, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.
New Jersey law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to allow employees to maintain a healthy pregnancy or recover from childbirth. The law mentions accommodations such as breaks, opportunities to rest, light duty, and modified work schedules, which could include working fewer hours. All employers must provide these accommodations unless they would cause an undue hardship to the business.
The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for pregnancy or parenting leave (among other things). If you qualify, you can use the FMLA to take time off when you are unable to work because of your pregnancy and childbirth. You can also take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits. (Learn more about the FMLA, including eligibility requirements, in our article on FMLA leave for pregnancy and disability.)
The FMLA gives mothers and fathers the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. This is part of the total 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have ten weeks left to use for parenting leave.
New Jersey has its own parental leave law, which allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks off to care for a new child. (Unlike the FMLA, it does not give employees the right to take time off for pregnancy, but employees in New Jersey can use the FMLA to take pregnancy leave).
The New Jersey law differs from the FMLA in a couple of ways. First, employees may take 12 weeks off every two years, not every year as the FMLA allows. And second, employees are eligible for leave under the New Jersey law if they have worked at least 1,000 hours for the employer in the preceding 12 months; under the FMLA, employees must have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months to be eligible.
If you qualify for leave under both the FMLA and New Jersey's parental leave law (in other words, if you meet the eligibility requirements under both laws), you might be able to take more than 12 weeks of leave. Because pregnancy leave is not covered under New Jersey's law, any time you take before giving birth would count against your FMLA leave only. Once you have your baby, you would still have 12 weeks available under the state's parental leave 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; you can use a couple of hours of your FMLA leave, then go back to work.
For parental leave, however, the rules are different. If you want to use your parenting leave a little at a time, your employer must agree to it. This is true under both the FMLA and New Jersey's parental leave law. You aren't automatically entitled to use your parenting leave intermittently.
If your employer agrees to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must complete your time off within one year after the baby is born.
If you are married to someone who works for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you. (This rule does not apply under New Jersey's parental leave law.) However, 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.
FMLA leave is unpaid, as is leave under New Jersey's parental leave law. (But you can request to use your accrued paid leave (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your time off -- or your employer can require you to do so.) Fortunately, New Jersey is one of the few states that provides paid pregnancy leave and family leave.
New Jersey has a temporary disability insurance (TDI) program, funded by employer contributions and wage withholding from employee paychecks. If you take time off while you are temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth, you can file a TDI claim to receive up to two-thirds of your usual wages, up to a certain maximum. For a normal pregnancy, benefits are generally available for up to four weeks before you have your baby and up to six weeks after you give birth. If you have a medically complicated pregnancy or birth, you may be eligible for more benefits. Learn more about New Jersey's temporary disability program.
New Jersey's temporary disability program does not require your employer to give you time off in the first place, nor to give you back your job when you are ready to return to work. It gives you only the right to be paid for any time you take off. (If you are covered by the FMLA, that law protects your right to take leave and return to work.)
New Jersey has a paid family leave program that is part of its temporary disability insurance program. You can use paid family leave for up to six weeks to bond with your new child. The same benefits (up to two-thirds of your usual salary) are available for paid family leave as for TDI.
Your employer may also offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or short-term disability insurance. Talk to your HR representative or manager (and check your employee handbook) to find out what types of leave are available to you.