Maternity and Parental Leave Laws in Rhode Island

RI's Parental and Family Medical Leave Act protects your job while you take pregnancy disability or parenting leave, and the TDI/TCI programs pay you during leave.

By , J.D. · UC Berkeley School of Law

If you work in Rhode Island, the Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA) gives you the right to take time off work for parenting, childbirth, and pregnancy (if you're physically unable to work). Rhode Island is also one of a small handful of states that provides temporary disability insurance (TDI), which pays employees a portion of their regular salary while they can't work due to pregnancy and childbirth. The state also provides temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) to new parents.

In addition, three federal laws give some employees in Rhode Island the right to take unpaid leave for maternity and parenting. You may have to carefully select which laws and programs you qualify for based on your eligibility, since some of these laws and programs only apply to:

  • employees who work for larger companies
  • employees who earned a certain amount of money in the past year, or
  • non-government employees.

Read on to learn which laws protect your job when you can't work because of pregnancy or childbirth or when you need to take time off to care for a new child—and which programs let you get paid during maternity or parental leave.

Getting Paid During Maternity Leave in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of a few states that provide paid time off for employees through its temporary disability insurance (TDI) and temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) programs.

If you're temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy, you can apply for temporary disability insurance benefits. Most employees in Rhode Island are eligible for TDI, though government employees are not.

Rhode Island's TDI program pays a portion of your usual pay, up to a maximum of $1,043 per week (as of July 1, 2023), for up to 30 weeks while you can't work. If you have dependent children, you might get an additional dependency allowance. Find out more about Rhode Island's temporary disability program.

While the TDI program gives you cash benefits for your time off, it doesn't protect your job. Fortunately, Rhode Island's Parental and Family Medical Leave Act, and some other state and federal laws, do require your employer to hold open a job for you.

Job Protections for Time Off During Pregnancy in Rhode Island

There are two types of laws that protect your job if you need pregnancy leave: laws that require pregnancy leave and those prohibiting pregnancy discrimination.

Pregnancy Disability Leave Under the PFMLA and the FMLA

Rhode Island's FMLA law, called the Parental and Family Medical Leave Act (PFMLA), gives employees the right to take up to 13 weeks of unpaid leave for a serious health condition, including pregnancy, in any two calendar years. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-48-2.) When you return to your job in 13 weeks or less, your employer must reinstate you to your same job or an equivalent one. While leave under the PFMLA is unpaid, you may be able to get cash benefits through Rhode Island's TDI program or another program.

Similarly, the federal FMLA gives employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for serious health conditions each year. But the coverage and eligibility requirements under the federal FMLA and Rhode Island's PFMLA are slightly different.

Both laws apply to employers with at least 50 employees, but you're eligible for leave under RI's PFMLA if you've been employed for at least 12 consecutive months and average at least 30 hours of work per week. To be eligible for FMLA leave, you must have worked for the employer for 12 months for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding your leave.

While you can take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits, there's no provision allowing time off for prenatal care under Rhode Island's PFMLA. PFMLA leave can't be taken intermittently like FMLA leave.

Pregnancy Discrimination Laws That Might Require Employers to Allow Leave

If you work for a company with less than 50 employees but more than 14 employees, you might be able to use the following federal laws to take protected leave for pregnancy and childbirth. Most employers with at least 15 employees must abide by the PWFA and the PDA unless doing so would cause undue hardship for the business.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) is a recent federal law that protects the rights of pregnant employees to have reasonable accommodations in the workplace. Some examples of reasonable accommodations under the PWFA include the following:

  • being able to sit while you work (even if your job is usually done standing)
  • receiving additional breaks to use the restroom, eat, or rest
  • receiving appropriately sized uniforms, and
  • having flexible hours.

Under the PWFA, reasonable accommodations can also include taking time off during pregnancy and recovery from childbirth.

The PDA doesn't require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. But it does require employers to treat employees who can't work due to pregnancy the same as other employees temporarily disabled by illnesses or injuries. So if your employer allows someone to take leave because of a broken leg, under the PDA, you must also be allowed to take time off for pregnancy.

And under Rhode Island law, all employers in R.I. must also make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees who are still working unless the employer can show that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship on the business. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-5-7.4.) Depending on the circumstances, this law might entitle you to take time off during your pregnancy.

Your Right to Parenting or Paternity Leave in Rhode Island

Rhode Island is one of a few states that provide paid time off for employees through its temporary caregiver insurance (TCI) program.

Paid Family Leave Through TCI Program

In Rhode Island, Temporary Caregiver Insurance (TCI) offers a small amount of paid time off for caregiving for a family member, including parenting a new child. The TCI program has the same eligibility rules as TDI, meaning government employees don't qualify.

You can receive partial wage replacement for up to six weeks for caregiving or bonding with a new child, but these weeks count against the 30-week maximum for TDI. The TCI program pays a portion of your usual wages, up to a maximum of $1,043 per week (as of July 1, 2023). (Find out more about temporary caregiver insurance benefits in Rhode Island.)

The TCI program also requires your employer to restore you to your same job—or to a comparable job with the same seniority, benefits, and pay—upon your return to work.

Job Protections During Parenting Leave in Rhode Island

The "P" in Rhode Island's PFMLA refers to "parental" leave. If you meet the eligibility requirements described above (including working for an employer with 50 or more employees), you can use unpaid PFMLA leave for the birth of a new baby or the adoption of or foster placement of a child in your home, whether or not you qualify for TCI.

The PFMLA requires your employer to reinstate you to your same job or an equivalent one when you return to your job (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-48-2.)

Any PFMLA leave you used during your pregnancy will be subtracted from your total leave allowance of 13 weeks. So, if you take four weeks off during your pregnancy, you'll have nine weeks left for parenting and bonding leave.

Rhode Island also has a "school involvement leave" law (R.I. Gen. Laws § 28-48-12), which gives parents the right to take up to ten hours off per year to attend school conferences or school activities for their children. Eligibility requirements are the same as for the PFMLA.

Job Protections Under the Federal FMLA

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act also gives eligible employees the right to take time off to bond with a new baby or a newly adopted or foster child. As with the PFMLA, parenting leave is part of your 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use two weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you'll have ten weeks left for parenting leave.

But if you and your spouse both work for the same company, your employer can limit your total amount of FMLA leave for parenting to 12 weeks for both of you—meaning you'd have to share the 12 weeks. 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 illness.

Part-Time or Reduced Schedule Parenting Leave

The FMLA allows employees to take pregnancy 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 just a couple of hours of your leave, then go back to work.

For parental leave, however, the rules are different. If you want to use your parenting leave under the FMLA a little at a time, your employer must agree to it. If your employer agrees to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must finish your time off within one year after the baby is born.

Getting Paid During FMLA or PMFLA Leave

FMLA and PFMLA leave is unpaid, but like most employees in R.I., you probably qualify for cash benefits under the TDI/TCI programs. If not (say you're a government employee), you can use any accrued paid leave you have (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your FMLA/PFLMA leave. And your employer can require you to use up your accrued paid time off.

Your employer might also offer other benefits like:

  • maternity and paternity leave
  • parental benefits, or
  • group short-term disability insurance (SDI) that covers pregnancy and childbirth.

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

If you plan to have a baby, but your employer doesn't offer paid leave, you might consider buying your own SDI policy covering pregnancy.

Updated August 8, 2023

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