The United States has a rough track record when it comes to how it treats new parents, ranking last of the 36 countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Maternity leave in the United States is regulated by labor law but only requires twelve weeks of unpaid leave for mothers of newborn or newly adopted children, and only if they work for a company with fifty or more employees. For US workers at companies with fewer than 50 employees, there is no legal right to maternity leave - whether paid or unpaid. This idea results in only 12 percent of Americans receiving paid parental leave, with this number being even worse among low-income families and families of color, where the amount can be as low as 5 percent.
Even though there is overwhelming evidence that paid maternity leave is beneficial for all involved, states stances vary greatly. Many states have no protections past The Family and Medical Leave Act (FLMA) which only offers protections and benefits to federal employees, state employees, and employees of private companies with 50 or more people in their employ that have 1,250 hours in the previous year.
Many other states have some kind of job protection past FLMA. You can find details of each state's interpretation of maternity leave below.
California’s new law for paid parental leave, the New Parent Leave Act, took effect in 2019. This rule allows for new parents who work for a company with at least 20 employees to take leave for up to 12 weeks. They do not provide job protection, but they will cover any employee, either part or full-time.
Employees in Connecticut will be able to request and take paid family leave through the Connecticut Family and Medical Leave Act (CTFMLA). Through this, all pregnant and adoptive employees are entitled to 12 weeks of paid leave within a calendar year, as well as an additional two weeks for health conditions that create an incapacitation during pregnancy. This Act took effect beginning in 2022.
Employees must have been employed for at least 12 months and worked a minimum of 1000 hours. The support will last for 12 weeks.
Massachusetts also granted paid family leave in 2019 with the Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (MA PFML). Like in California, the MAPMFL provides up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees who work at companies where the employer pays into the unemployment insurance fund. This means that if you work in another state but commute to Massachusetts, you will be able to receive this paid family leave.
In New Jersey, new parents can take up to 12 weeks of partially paid parental leave, thanks to the New Jersey Family Leave Act. There is a total of 24 weeks of job protection available.
The most recent state to require paid maternity leave is Oregon. The bill was signed into law in August 2019 and is the first of its kind. Unlike other states, Oregon will provide 100 percent wage replacement for all employees (even those who may be in the country illegally) as long they earn at least $1000 in a calendar year.
Rhode Island’s Parental and Family Medical Leave Act guarantees employees up to 13 weeks of leave for a serious health condition, including pregnancy, in two calendar years.
Paid family leave became mandatory in New York on January 1, 2018. This leave is being introduced on a phased approach - employees were originally guaranteed up to eight weeks of paid family leave, and this number went up to 12 weeks in 2021.
Beginning in January 2020, employees in Washington start being able to apply for paid family and medical leave benefits. These benefits will allow for up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year.
While some states have nothing in place for employees who are pregnant, other states offer, at the very least, job protection.
The Hawaii Family Leave Law provides up to four weeks of unpaid family leave each year to eligible employees.
In Iowa, unpaid leave is a requirement for companies with four or more employees.
In Kentucky, six weeks of unpaid leave is provided to employees who give birth to or adopt a child.
Louisiana has protections in place so that six weeks of unpaid leave is available for employees of companies with 25+ employees, as well as 4+ months for disabilities related to pregnancy.
Maine requires companies with 15 or more employees to offer ten weeks of unpaid leave within a period of two years.
In Maryland, companies with anywhere from 15-49 employees are required to offer 10 weeks of unpaid parental leave.
For residents of Minnesota, companies with at least 21 employees must provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave within 12 months of a birth or adoption. Eligible employees must have been working at least part-time with the company for a minimum of one year before the leave request.
Montana’s female employees of public employers have “reasonable leave of absence for pregnancy” or six weeks. Paternal and adoptive leave is also available for up to 15 days.
In New Hampshire, companies that have six or more employees are required to provide unpaid leave and there is no time limit for said leave. Legislature also mentions that if a company provides leave for other illnesses, it has to do the same for pregnancy.
The only people who are eligible for North Dakota’s leave protections are employees of the state. They can have up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. South Dakota has the same policy in place that applies to state employees only.
Residents of Tennessee must be offered four months of unpaid leave for employees. Offering paid leave is up to the company’s discretion.
In Vermont, 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period is offered to employees of companies with ten or more employees.
West Virginia companies with 12 or more employees must provide time off (among other benefits) to pregnant employees who have been with the company for over 12 weeks.
Six weeks for a birth or adoption must be provided by companies with 50+ employees. Two weeks may be added for caring for a family member.
Unpaid or paid leave is up to the employer's discretion in the state of Wyoming.
Up to eight weeks of unpaid leave is available for those give birth or adopt.
Employees of private companies can qualify for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when medically necessary. Generally, maternity leave lasts eight weeks: four weeks pre-birth and four weeks afterward.
Paid Maternity Leave
|New Hampshire||Unpaid||If the employer allows paid leave for other illnesses, it must allow the same for pregnancy.|
|North Dakota||Unpaid||Applies only to state employees. Up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period|
|South Dakota||Unpaid||Applies only to state employees. Up to 12 weeks during a 12-month period.|
|Tennessee||Unpaid||Companies must offer 4 months unpaid leave Offering paid leave is up to the employer’s discretion|
|Wyoming||Unpaid||Up to employer’s discretion|
|California||Paid||Employees who have worked for an employer for at least 12 months, and who have 1250 hours of service during the 12 months prior to the leave||8 weeks||60 to 70% of wages earned 5-18 months before claim start date. Weekly benefits range from $50 to $1,540.|
|Colorado||Paid||Colorado employees who have earned at least $2,500 in wages within the state within the last 4 calendar quarters. Self Employed Workers (1099 or Contract Workers) may also be eligible if they have opted into coverage and live and work in Colorado.||12 weeks of paid leave + the potential for 4 additional weeks for childbirth complications||Up to 90% of the employee’s average weekly wage.|
|Connecticut||Paid||Employed for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,000 hours in the preceding 12-month period||12 weeks||Up to 95% of weekly pay.|
|Delaware||Paid||Employees who have worked for the same employer for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours in the prior 12 months||12 weeks||80% of the covered individual’s average weekly wages.|
|Hawaii||Paid||Employers with 100+ employees must offer up to 4 weeks each calendar year.||Usually 6-8 weeks, up to 6 months||58% of average wages. Employers must maintain private coverage or self-insure.|
|Illinois||Paid||Any Illinois workers||40 hours under the Paid Leave for Workers Act||100% of individual's normal hourly rate of pay.|
|Maryland||Paid||All Maryland employee parents of any gender, including foster and adoptive parents (full-time and part-time + private and public sector workers.)||Up to 12 weeks of paid leave (24 in some circumstances).||Up to 90% of their income.|
|New Jersey||Paid||All employees. Paid through state temporary disability insurance.||12 weeks during and after pregnancy plus an additional 12 weeks for parental leave for birth and adoptive parents.||Up to 2/3 regular wages.|
|New York||Paid||All private sector employees who have worked at least 26 weeks get 12 paid leave weeks.||Typically 6-8 weeks for disability due to pregnancy and a further 12 weeks of parental leave once for new parents||Up to 67% of average salary (up to $840.70 per week).|
|Rhode Island||Paid||All employees through state temporary disability insurance Companies with 50+ employees must offer 13 weeks unpaid leave in any 2 calendar years||Temporary Disability Insurance for the duration of disability due to pregnancy, followed by 4 additional weeks for new mothers. Up to 30 weeks||$114 to $978 per week. Funded by employee wage deductions.|
|Washington||Paid||All employers must offer paid leave but only those with 50+ employees must offer job protection||12 weeks (or more in the case of complications)||90% of wages up to $1,000 per week.|