Vermont's Family and Parental Leave Law gives employees the right to take time off for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives you the right to take unpaid leave for these same reasons. In addition, the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because of your pregnancy, which may give you the right to take time off work in some cases.
There are two types of laws that might protect you if you need pregnancy leave: laws prohibiting pregnancy discrimination and laws that require pregnancy leave.
In Vermont, state law requires employers with ten or more employees to let employees take time off work for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Employees are eligible for leave if they have been continuously employed by their employer for at least one year, for an average of 30 hours or more per week. Employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave in a one-year period for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting combined. So if your employer is too small to be covered by the FMLA (see below), you may still be entitled to time off under Vermont law.
The FMLA applies only to employers with at least 50 employees. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, and at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately preceding their leave. The FMLA gives eligible employees the right to take up to 12 weeks off work in a one-year period for serious health conditions and parenting leave (among other things).
If you qualify, you may use the FMLA to take time off when you are unable to work because of your pregnancy and childbirth. You may 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 PDA does not require employers to give pregnant employees time off work. However, it does require employers to treat employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy just as it treats other employees who are temporarily disabled for other reasons. For example, if your company lets employees take time off for temporary illnesses and injuries, then it must allow pregnant employees to take the same time off when they are unable to work.
Vermont's parental and family leave law gives employees the right to take time off to bond with a newborn or newly adopted child. This is part of your total 12-week leave entitlement. So, if you use four weeks of FMLA leave during your pregnancy, you will have eight weeks left to use for parenting leave.
The FMLA works the same way. You have 12 weeks off work, total, to divide between your pregnancy leave and your parental leave.
The FMLA allows employees to take the 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. You aren't automatically entitled to use your parenting leave intermittently. If your employer does agree to let you use your parenting leave intermittently, you must finish your time off within one year after the baby is born.
Vermont law says only that employees are entitled to a total of 12 weeks off; it doesn't state that employees must use all of their leave at the same time. Vermont's information guide about the law states that this provision has been interpreted to allow intermittent leave under the same circumstances as the FMLA.
Leave under Vermont's Family and Parental Leave Law and the FMLA is unpaid. However, 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 time off. Vermont law states that employers must allow employees to use their accrued paid leave for up to six weeks of their time off. Employers may, but aren't required, to allow employees to use more paid leave, if they have accrued it.
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.