The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the primary law governing how maternity and paternity leave work in Florida during an extended absence from work.
The state does not have a sister regulation that extends the time or expands the eligibility, nor does it require wage replacement benefits. Therefore, the unpaid time off lasts either zero or twelve weeks.
However, every rule has an exception, and a few lucky mothers and fathers can tap into benefits that provide income support while out of work.
Women who take action before they conceive fare the best.
Florida Parental Leave Laws
Florida parental leave laws are sparse when compared to progressive states. Most new mothers and fathers must take and unpaid work absence. The federal FMLA (see below) provides legal job and health insurance protection.
However, the state does not step in a require wage replacement. New moms and dads need to take personal responsibility.
Government financial assistance programs may help you survive during unpaid maternity leave and typically fall into two categories.
First, some states have initiatives that replace a portion of income while parents bond with their newborn baby. However, these opportunities are unavailable in Florida.
Second, a variety of federal welfare programs can help mothers and fathers pay their bills during the time they are off from work. Plus, lost earnings boost your eligibility for income-based supports.
Florida does not have a law requiring private employers to provide paid maternity leave. However, this does not mean that wage replacement benefits are entirely unavailable. Companies are free to help employees any way they choose, and parents can take matters into their own hands.
Short-term disability is the primary vehicle offering paid maternity leave to mothers in Florida. Women who purchase this private insurance policy before conception can file a claim for multiple reasons.
- Pregnancy complications that prevent her from working before her due date
- Recovery from labor and delivery during childbirth (6 to 8 weeks)
- Postpartum medical disorders that delay her return to work
Fathers taking paternity leave do not qualify for short-term disability because men remain physically able to perform their job duties.
Collecting unemployment is not a viable option for paid maternity leave while mom remains physically unable to work. However, she may qualify for benefits after recovering from childbirth if she lost her job in the interim.
Florida unemployment law includes legal language about “good cause reason” for a voluntary quit that could apply to new mothers.
“Attributable to the individual’s illness or disability requiring separation from his or her work.”
The same disability claim reasons noted above (pregnancy complications, recovery from labor and delivery, and postpartum medical disorders) could meet this legal definition.
Once again, fathers are less likely to qualify for unemployment after paternity leave because men do not suffer an illness or disability. Dad’s experience does not fit the good cause reason legal definition.
The Florida Temporary Cash Assistance program helps families with children under the age of 18, pregnant women in their 9th month, and expectant women in their 3rd trimester who are unable to work.
This state-based government entitlement is available to women meeting three main requirements.
- Technical: applicants are subject to a 24-month time limit and must meet specific work rules
- Income: gross earnings must be below 185% of the federal poverty level for a given family size.
- Assets: countable resources must not exceed $2,000.
State government employees in Florida have a documented law protecting parental leave rights and an obscure footnote in their benefits booklet that allows wage replacement for mothers.
FL statutes spell out additional legal rights for new parents of a child who was born or adopted. These rules pertain to state employees and prohibit a government agency from any of the following.
- Terminate an employee because of pregnancy, or adoption
- Refuse unpaid time off up to six months
- Deny use of annual credits, or accrued sick days
- Require employees to take parental time off
The state employee benefits handbook is a 36-page document. Buried on page 31 is a one-line mention of supplemental short-term disability. Only workplace-based policies such as these make claim payments while mom recovers from childbirth. Make sure to sign up during open enrollment before you conceive.
Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in FL
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the chief law providing job and health insurance protections for parents absent from work. Florida does not have a state-based regulation extending the time, expanding the number of eligible workers, or addressing the lack of wage support.
Only about half of the people in the Sunshine state enjoy these legal rights.
- Take job-protected time off without interference, restraint, or retaliation
- Have group health insurancemaintained under the same terms and conditions
- Restored to the same or an equivalent position after the 12 weeks
The FMLA rules define how long maternity leave lasts in Florida. Keep in mind that each employer can maintain policies that go beyond what the law requires. Consult your employee handbook at work – particularly if you do not qualify under FMLA.
Twelve weeks apply to eligible employees working for covered employers who want to take a medical leave of absence.
- Covered Employers
- Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks
- Public agency regardless of the number of people it employs
- Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of people it employs
- Eligible Employees
- Worked for the employer for at least 12 months
- Logged at least 1,250 hours of service in the last 12 months
- Works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
Zero weeks of legal rights pertain to people who do not meet the criteria for a medical leave of absence.
- Small businesses with less than 50 full-time employees
- Part-time and seasonal workers
- Self-employed individuals
- Job changers who started mid-year
- Satellite or work-at-home employees in remote locations
The FMLA forms that you need to file are not unique to Florida because it is a federal law that applies to workers across the nation.
The US Department of Labor publishes and hosts a variety of applicable FMLA documents, which you can easily download, print, fill out, sign, and then submit to your employer.
- Fathers on paternity leave could be eligible to care for his sick wife experiencing pregnancy complications or postpartum disorders, or an infant born prematurely. In this case, form WH-380-F (family member health condition) is the appropriate paperwork.
- Dads wanting to bond with a newborn, adopted, or foster child do not need to certify their need for time off – but employers can request documentation to confirm the family relationship.
- Mothers on maternity leave need to complete form WH-380-E (employee health condition). Documenting a family relationship should only be an issue with adoption and foster placement.
 FL Statutes 443.101(1)(a)1
 Title X, Chapter 110, and Section 221.S