What are my maternity and paternity leave requirements?

Maternity and paternity leave is protected time that an employee can take off to care for their newborn or newly adopted child.

As an employer, there a few requirements you should be aware of, both at the federal and state level.

Federal requirements: Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), most employers with 50 employees or more must allow eligible US employees to:

  • Take 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period;
  • Continue health care coverage under your company plan during that leave; and
  • Return to their old job, or a similar one, once the leave is over.

In addition, the FMLA requires covered employers to:

  • Inform employees of their rights, eligibility, and requirements under the FMLA;
  • Complete and provide a Notice of Eligibility (Form WH-381) to each employee the first time within a 12 month period that they apply for leave; and
  • Complete and provide a Designation Notice (Form WH-382) once they have determined that the requested leave is for a reason that is covered under the FMLA.

For more information, check out the US Department of Labor’s Employer’s Guide to the FMLA.

State requirements: Many states have passed laws that add on to the federal FMLA requirements. For example,

  • In California, companies with 20 employees or more must give eligible employees the same rights as the FMLA does at a federal level; and
  • In Vermont, companies with just 10 employees or more must give eligible employees the same rights as the FMLA does at a federal level.

In addition, your state may have notification and reporting requirements above those required by the FMLA.

Since these laws and requirements differ from state-to-state, be sure to check your state’s Department of Labor website.

Is there a reason to offer maternity or paternity leave if I don’t have to?

Even if you’re not required to, it’s great to offer maternity and paternity leave, as it’s such an important milestone in any person’s life. Read this article on how to create a parental leave policy for your employees.

This article provides general information and shouldn’t be construed as legal or HR advice. Since employment laws may change over time and can vary by location and industry, please consult a lawyer or HR expert for advice specific to your business.