Maternity leave is not a standard across the US. Every state has their own rules regarding what time off mothers can take. In the United States, parents are by law allowed to take 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for children. This law covers biological children like a newborn, adopted or foster children as well.
This right is granted through the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This act also covers other family issues such as to care for a family member or to take care of the employee’s own medical conditions.
12 weeks of unpaid leave is the minimum requirement that all employers of more than 50 people must meet in the United States.
American parents would swoon at the amount of leave allotted to parents in Sweden. Swedish parents get a total of 480 days per child! They can use the leave any time until the child is 8 years old. Both mother and father can share the days but 60 are reserved especially for the new dad. Not only do they get more generous time allotments, they are also entitled to receive 80% of their wages!
The American equivalent of parental leave pales in comparison. American parents are forced to decide how much time they can spend with their precious newborn and how to account for the dip in pay from their budget.
14 states provide for greater leave for parents of newborns. By 2018, four states will offer paid family and medical leave. Other states offer additional benefits to employees such as paid sick time and time off for school events. Continue reading to find out which states are the most generous in terms of family leave for American parents.
California offers some of the most extensive benefits for maternity leave of all of the 50 states.
All private employers who have more than 50 employees are required to allow parents to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave (complying with FMLA). But they also get up to 4 months of unpaid maternity disability for a total of 28 weeks per year.
California also has certain circumstances that employees can receive paid leave. For employees who have worked at least 12 months prior to the leave (working a minimum of 125 hours in those 12 months) 6 weeks of paid leave are available through the California Paid Family Leave insurance program.
The amount of this benefit is about 55% of the employee’s weekly wage (maxing out at $1067). It can be used for caring for a sick family member in several different circumstances as well as bonding with a new child.
The state of Connecticut offers additional time off for maternity leave than the minimum 12 weeks required through FMLA.
Employers who have 75 or more employees are required to offer more time off. The exception to this rule is for private and parochial elementary and secondary schools that don’t have to give more time than the minimum 12 weeks off.
In Connecticut, parents are allowed up to 16 weeks leave every 2 years for the adoption or birth of a child or the placement of a child for foster care.
Connecticut offers the additional time off, but does not include any pay like California does. The 16 weeks can also be used to care for a family member with a serious medical condition, to donate an organ or bone marrow or for the serious medical condition of the employee.
To qualify for the leave, employees must have at least 1000 hours of service with an employers during the year before the leave.
13 District Of Columbia
Washington D.C. offers a generous amount of time off for maternity and medical leave. Unfortunately, the leave is unpaid. It differentiates between family leave and an employee’s own medical leave for serious health issues.
Any public or private employer must allow these specific amounts of leave in Washington D.C. If the employee has worked at least 1000 hours with the employer in the year prior to the leave, the employee qualifies for the leave.
Employees can take up to 16 weeks of unpaid leave for family leave (including the birth of a child). They can also take an additional 16 weeks of medical leave if they have a serious health condition. The leave is calculated for a two year period.
One caveat is that if multiple family members are working for the same company, they must share the leave.
While families living in Washington D.C. have more time available for the birth of a child or a medical emergency, families and individuals are still responsible for figuring out how to take the time off of work without receiving pay.
The Aloha state gives additional time off for the birth of a child or adoption placement. It gives parents more time than just the FMLA minimum of 12 weeks. This is considered unpaid leave for residents of Hawaii (well I guess not everything is sunshine and rainbows in Hawaii).
In Hawaii, parents can take up to 4 weeks per year for the birth of a child, an adoption placement or to care for a family member. This time off does not apply to an individual’s own medical issues. Have a foster child joining the family? This doesn’t qualify for the additional four weeks.
Employers are required to offer additional time for if they have 100 or more employees. The employee has to have worked for the employer for 6 consecutive months prior to the leave. Who is left out of this? Government employees are excluded from the additional time off.
Maine expands the FMLA requirements to include employers who have 15 or more employees (unlike FMLA which goes into effect for employers with 50 or more employees). All state employers and local governments that have 25 or more employees are also required to offer the 10 weeks of maternity leave for parents in the Pine Tree State.
Unfortunately, parental leave to care for a newborn or adopted child in Maine is unpaid.
Parents in Maine can take up to 10 weeks in a 2 year period for the birth of a child or an adoption. Parents working for employers with more than 50 employees would also qualify for the 12 weeks of leave with FMLA.
In Maine, the adoption leave is only for children who are 16 years old or younger. An added bonus to Maine’s package–parents in Maine don’t have to share the leave.
The Bay State, Massachusetts, has a few additional benefits for parents but none specifically for the birth or adoption of a child.
With a wider range of available reasons to miss work, Massachusetts outlines times parents can take off of work to tend to their children.
Parents are allowed to use up to 24 hours of leave to take care of the many responsibilities of caring for a child. These responsibilities can include participating in educational activities. Parents can also use this time to take children to routine medical appointments. The legislation behind this unpaid leave is the Small Necessities Leave Act.
Working parents with children know how quickly school demands or doctor’s appointments can eat up personal leave or vacation time. Parents in Massachusetts get a little reprieve in balancing work and home responsibilities.
The 24 hours of leave must be granted to employees who have employers of 50 or more people.
Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, expands the minimum federal requirements to reach parents working in smaller companies or businesses. More parents are given the right by the state to take time off for their newborn child.
Minnesota expanded the federal requirements by offering maternity leave to employees working for companies with only 21 or more employees. Plus any employer with at least 1 employee must grant leave for school activities.
Parents in the gopher state can have up to 6 weeks off for the birth or adoption of a child. Parents are also allowed to use their own sick time to take care of their sick children. The maternity leave does not have to be shared by the parents.
Maternity leave in Minnesota, like so many other states is unpaid. There is no state mandate that requires employers to provide compensation nor does the state offer any sort of disability insurance for maternity leave.
8 New Jersey
New Jersey is one of just four states offering paid maternity leave. New Jersey has expanded the amount of time parents can take off for a variety of child-related issues (not all of which qualify for paid leave).
In New Jersey, employees who have worked 20 calendar weeks or who have earned 1000 times the state minimum wage during the 52 weeks prior to the leave qualify for paid leave.
The paid leave pays 2/3 of the employee’s wages up to $524 a week. This pay can continue for up to 6 weeks. The leave must be used as part of the FMLA 12 week leave. Parents are not allowed to receive the paid leave until other types of leave are used. The leave parents can use can be paid, unpaid or a combination.
Parents can also take unpaid leave of up to 12 weeks every 2 years but cannot exceed 6 weeks in 12 months. This can be used anytime in the first year after a birth or adoption.
7 New York
New York is set to become the fourth state in the United States to give parents paid maternity leave. This change will take place January 1, 2018.
New York will slowly roll out a paid maternity leave. The program will start with 8 paid weeks of time off in 2018. In 2019, parents will be able to take 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. By 2021, parents will get a maximum benefit of 12 paid weeks of maternity leave.
The amount of the benefit paid out will also slowly increase over the years. Starting in 2018 the state will pay 50% of the average weekly wage. In 2019, New York will increase that to 55%. By 2020 parents will be able to receive 60%. Finally, in 2022 the average will be increased to 67%.
This paid maternity leave will be a mandatory offering by all private employers. Employees have to have worked 26 or more consecutive weeks in full or part time positions to be covered. Is anyone left out? Public employers will have the choice to opt in or not to.
Oregon allows parents to take up to 12 weeks of maternity leave per year. Maternity leave in Oregon is, unfortunately, unpaid. Parents or other guardians are also allowed to take an additional 12 unpaid weeks per year to care for an ill or injured child who needs care at home but does not have a serious illness.
What are the drawbacks for this additional time off? If two family members work for the same employer, they are not able to take the family leave at the same time except for certain situations. The employee can also use any available paid vacation or sick time as a substitute for the unpaid leave.
Oregon’s family leave laws apply to all employers with 25 or more employees. For an employee to qualify for the family leave, they have to have worked for at least 25 hours a week in the last 180 days.
5 Rhode Island
Rhode Island is another state that has joined the ranks of states offering paid maternity leave to parents.
Through the Rhode Island Temporary Caregiver Insurance Program, parents are able to take four weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child. This also applies to parents adopting or fostering a child.
The amount a parent will receive varies. The minimum payment that can be made is $72 a week. The maximum payment is $752. The amount received is based on the person’s income.
The paid leave is mandated for all private employers and the public employers who opt into the program.
Parents in Rhode Island can also get additional leave that is unpaid. They can get up to 13 weeks of maternity leave in a two year period. This can be used for a birth or adoption (if the child is 16 or younger).
This additional leave must be offered by employers who have 50 or more employees, all state government employers and local governments with 30 or more employees. Parents must have worked an average of 30+ hours a week for the 12 months prior to the leave.
Vermont extends unpaid leave benefits to parents working for smaller companies. Employers with just 10 or more employees must allow time off for parents of newborns or adopted children. The employees must have worked with the employer for at least 30 hours a week for the year prior to the leave.
Parents can take up to 12 weeks each year for parental leave. They are also allowed to substitute sick time, vacation pay or any other paid leave for the unpaid leave. Substituting the unpaid time with other paid leave cannot account for more than 6 weeks of the time off.
In addition to the family leave, parents get an extra 24 hours each year to deal with doctors appointments (well-child or emergency appointments). They can also use this time to participate in educational activities for the child. The drawback? Parents can’t use this leave for more than 4 hours every 30 days.
In 2007, the Washington Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act was passed. This act set up a paid family leave insurance program but it was never implemented. The act has been indefinitely postponed by later legislation.
Until further notice, parents in Washington won’t be getting the benefit of paid leave. They still, though, can receive 12 weeks of unpaid leave each 12 month period for the birth of a child through the Washington Family Leave Act. The unpaid leave also covers the adoption of a child or the event of having a child placed in a home for foster care.
Parents in Washington can opt to use their paid sick leave or other paid time off to care for a sick child. This right was granted to parents through the Washing Family Care Act.
These benefits are available to all employees who have worked for at least 680 hours during their qualifying year.
America’s dairy land, Wisconsin, is the last state of the list to pass additional legislation for family leave. This leave is available to parents of newborns or parents adopting a child.
Wisconsin requires employers of at least 50 individuals on a permanent basis to give employees up to 6 weeks of leave for the birth of a child. The same is given to parents adopting a child.
Another 2 weeks of leave is available to parents to care for a child with a serious health condition. Spouses do not have to share the leave with each other.
Wisconsin also allows parents to use any paid or unpaid leave provided by the employer for portions of family or medical leave.
For parents to qualify for this, they have to have been employed by the same employer for 52 consecutive weeks. The parents also had to have worked for at least 1,000 in that time period.
1 The Other States Not Listed
The other states that aren’t listed here don’t have state-specific legislation for family or maternity leave. They do, however, receive the benefits of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
FMLA allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period to care for a newborn child. This also extends to adopted children and children in foster care.
FMLA applies to all employers with 50 or more employees.
Other states, not all listed above, provide an additional benefit to parents. This benefit allows parents to take additional time off for school related activities.
The states that have some sort of leave for school related activities include California, Colorado, Washington D.C., Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Vermont.
Check with your state legislature and employer early in the adoption process or pregnancy to find out all of the laws and benefits that apply to your specific situation.
Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures, NPR