In April 2019, the Vermont House approved a bill that would entitle a small percentage of workers — those who had worked 1,040 minimum wage hours during the previous four quarters of the year — to paid leave for family and medical reasons.
In all of our research about state and federal laws applying to maternity leave, one of the clearest and most concise explanations we’ve seen exists on the State of Vermont’s website here. Please note that while we are not attorneys, we've summarized what we could find from publicly available sources regarding your leave rights as a Vermont employee.
Federal law providing parental leave
We’ve already written about federal parental leave laws under FMLA, but to quickly summarize the rules, parents of newborn children or newly adopted children are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave so long as you have worked for a qualified employer for at least 1,250 hours in the year prior to you taking leave. A qualified employer is one who employs at least 50 employees within 75 miles of your work site.
Vermont law on maternity and paternity leave
In Vermont, there is not a “maternity leave” law, per se. Parental Leave covers both mothers and fathers. Parental leave allows pregnant women to take unpaid time off during their pregnancies, as well as providing that both male and female employees who adopt a child under the age of 16 or have a newborn child may take unpaid leave.
How much leave can I take under Vermont’s parental leave law?
If you qualify, you are allowed to take 12 weeks of leave under either (or both) FMLA and Vermont’s state law. You may still receive welfare benefits if you are on parental leave, but you may not collect unemployment insurance. To help those of you struggling with the financial burden of unpaid parental leave, we have provided some tips here.
How do I know if I qualify for Vermont parental leave?
We’ve already discussed the eligibility requirements for FMLA, but in Vermont, the rules cover workers who are employed by smaller companies as well. So long as your employer employs at least 10 employees who work an average of 30 hours per week per year that employer must provide parental leave to qualifying employees. To qualify as an employee, you must have been employed for at least 12 months prior to maternity or paternity leave and worked an average of 30 hours per week during that time.
What if I qualify for both FMLA and Vermont parental leave?
You will only get a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid leave in total because both leave periods run concurrently within the first 12 months following the birth or adoption of your child.
Am I paid during my parental leave in Vermont?
Unfortunately, not unless your employer voluntarily provides paid parental leave benefits or you have privately taken out a short-term disability policy to cover your prenatal and postpartum time away from work. You may request that your employer allow you to use any paid time off you have accrued (e.g. vacation days, sick days, or personal days) for up to six of the 12 weeks you are entitled to parental leave. However, your employer cannot force you to do so. If you choose to keep your paid days off for a separate use, that is your prerogative. If you're struggling financially, you may want to consider our ten tips for surviving an unpaid maternity leave.
Do I have to take my maternity leave all at one time?
Under FMLA, generally yes, unless there is a medical reason for you not to. Under Vermont law, you may take your 12 weeks of parental leave in an intermittent way so long as it is used within 12 months following the birth or adoption of a child.
What happens to my benefits while I’m out on leave?
It depends on whether you qualify for FMLA or Vermont parental leave. If you qualify for FMLA, your employer must continue to provide health care benefits and pay the same share of your premiums as if you were not on leave. Vermont’s parental leave law is more generous and requires that your employer continue to pay the same benefits (including health but also things like seniority, vacation, sick leave and any other benefits) you would have received if you were not on parental leave. However, if you decide not to return to work after leave for reasons other than having a serious illness, you will have to pay your employer back for the benefits you were given whie you were out on parental leave.
What are the rules regarding giving notice about my leave?
If you qualify for Vermont parental leave, you must provide reasonable written notice before you plan to take leave and estimate how long you will be taking (e.g. based on your expected due date). You are not required to give your employer a doctor or health care provider’s note in order to take parental leave.
What if I believe my Rights were violated?
You may file a complaint with the Office of the Vermont Attorney General or the Vermont Human Rights Commission (if you work for a state agency).