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Learn about offering FMLA parental leave to your employees.

When Can an Employee Take FMLA Parental Leave?

There are almost 65.7 million parents in the U.S. who reside with a child who is age 18 or under.

No parent should ever have to choose between their job and the needs of their children. That’s why parental leave exists.This benefit lets parents have time off to care for new children, illnesses, and education-related obligations.

As an employer, you can offer FMLA parental leave to your employees. However, there are certain federal FMLA rules you must follow to maintain a legal parental leave policy.

Which employees can use FMLA parental leave?

Employees are only eligible for parental leave if federal FMLA laws cover your business. You are an FMLA-covered employer if you have at least 50 employees employed within a 75-mile radius of your business.

Before an employee can use FMLA parental leave, they must work for you for at least 12 months. And during the 12 months before parental leave, the employee must have worked at least 1,250 hours. Full- and part-time employees can use FMLA leave.

Be sure to check your state’s FMLA laws. Some states require smaller employers to provide FMLA leave. Some states also let employees take leave sooner than 12 months of employment.

When can employees use FMLA parental leave?

Employees can use federal FMLA parental leave for the birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child. Both the mother and father can use parental leave.

Parents can also use FMLA leave to take care of a child who has a serious health condition. This also applies to caring for adult children.

What is school-related parental leave?

A small number of states allow parents to take leave to attend their children’s’ school-related events.

Below is a chart of states that allow employees to use school-related events. The chart only contains the basic leave information. Be sure to check your state’s laws to get full information on the leave. Some states only allow leave for certain educational events, or if the parent doesn’t have other leave available.

State School-related Parental Leave
California 40 hours per year, no more than 8 hours per month
Colorado 6 hours per month, 18 hours per school year
D.C. 24 hours per year
Illinois 8 hours per school year, no more than 4 hours per day.
Louisiana 16 hours per year
Massachusetts 24 hours per year
Minnesota 16 hours per year
Nevada You cannot terminate an employee for attending school conferences or receiving emergency notification at work.
North Carolina 4 hours per year
Rhode Island 10 hours per year
Vermont 24 hours in 12 months, no more than 4 hours in any 30-day period

How long is FMLA parental leave?

FMLA parental leave allows employees to use up to 12 weeks of leave each year. When employees are on leave, their jobs are protected by federal law.

Employees might also be able to use intermittent leave, meaning they don’t use the whole 12 weeks at one time. An employee might need intermittent leave if a child is seriously ill.

Once again, check your state’s FMLA laws. Some states have a more generous parental leave policy.

Do I have to pay employees for FMLA parental leave?

Every kind of federal FMLA leave is unpaid. You will not pay the employee using parental leave any portion of their wages.

Some states do have paid parental leave. For example, there is a New York paid family leave policy. In states that have paid leave, the leave is often paid out by a program funded by employment taxes. Also, the employee typically only earns a percentage of their normal wages.

You need an easy way to track employee time off. Try Patriot’s add-on for time and attendance systems for small business. Employees can enter the hours they work and take off. Once you approve the time cards, the information moves to the payroll software. Get a free trial!

This article is updated from its originally publication date of 4/17/2014.

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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