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 (when physically unable to work). Rhode Island is also one of a small handful of states that provides temporary disability insurance, which pays employees a portion of their regular compensation while they are unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth. The state also provides temporary caregiver insurance to new parents. In addition, the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Law (PDA) give some employees in Rhode Island the right to take unpaid time off.
There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave: laws that require pregnancy leave and laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination.
The Rhode Island PFMLA gives employees the right to take up to 13 weeks of leave for a serious health condition, including pregnancy, in any two calendar years. The FMLA gives employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off for serious health conditions and parenting. However, the coverage and eligibility requirements under these laws are slightly different. Both laws apply to employers with at least 50 employees, but you are eligible for leave under the PFMLA if you have been employed for at least 12 consecutive months and average at least 30 hours of work per week. You are eligible for FMLA leave if you have worked for the employer for 12 months for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding your leave. While you may take FMLA leave for prenatal care, including routine check-ups and doctor visits, there is no provision allowing this under Rhode Island's PFMLA.
The federal PDA does not require employers to give pregnant employees time off work, but it does require employers to treat employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats employees who are temporarily disabled due to illnesses and injuries. Employees who work for companies with less than 50 employees may be able to use this law to take protected leave during pregnancy and childbirth.
Rhode Island employers must also make reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees while they are still working, unless the employer can show that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. Depending on the circumstances, this law may entitle you to take time off during your pregnancy.
Rhode Island’s PFMLA also provides parental leave. If you meet the eligibility requirements described above, you may use PFMLA leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Any leave you use during your pregnancy will be subtracted from your total leave allowance of 13 weeks. So, if you take four weeks off while pregnant, you will have nine weeks left to use for parental leave.
The FMLA gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a new child, whether biological, adopted, or foster. As with the PFMLA, this is part of your 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. But 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. 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.
Rhode Island also has a small necessities law, which gives parents the right to take up to ten hours off per year to attend school conferences or school activities for their children.
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; you can use 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.
Rhode Island is one of a few states that provides paid time off for employees through its temporary disability and temporary caregiver insurance programs.
If you are temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy, you can apply for temporary disability benefits. These benefits are funded through withholding from employee paychecks. You are eligible to receive a portion of your usual pay, up to a current maximum of $817 per week (in 2016 and 2017), for up to 30 weeks while you are unable to work. Find out more about Rhode Island’s temporary disability program.
As part of its temporary disability insurance program, Rhode Island also offers a small amount of paid time off for caregiving, including parenting a new child. You can receive benefits for up to four weeks off for this purpose. Find out more about temporary caregiver insurance benefits in Rhode Island.
FMLA leave is unpaid, but you may ask – or your employer may require you – to use your accrued paid leave (like sick days, vacation, or PTO) to get paid during your FMLA leave.
Your employer may also offer maternity and paternity leave benefits, parental benefits, or its own 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.