North Carolina Maternity & Paternity Leave Length

How long is maternity leave in North Carolina, and how much money do you get while bonding with your newborn baby?

There is not a single correct answer to this question because several laws come into play, and some parents will meet the criteria, while others will not.

For example, some state government employees enjoy eight weeks at full salary and twelve weeks of legal job safeguards. Meanwhile, many private workers receive no compensation and do not qualify for FMLA – meaning their small business employer decides their fate.

Apply the relevant laws and programs to determine how much time off and money you might get – and how to survive.

NC Paid Parental Leave Benefits

North Carolina is one of many states that does not have a paid family leave program to help new parents in private industry that would like to spend quality time bonding with their baby. However, these same taxpayers support such a benefit for state government employees.

Other options narrow the public-private worker disparity only slightly.

Government Assistance

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 mom is unable to work or when parents bond with their newborn baby. However, these opportunities are unavailable to NC workers employed in private industry.

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.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability insurance in North Carolina offers the best opportunity for mothers to enjoy paid maternity leave benefits. However, many families miss the boat because coverage must begin before conception.

The private companies that issue these policies exclude pre-existing pregnancy for at least twelve months. However, the women who sign up in time at work can apply for benefits that replace up to 67% of earnings.

  • Pregnancy disability before birth for medical complications
  • Recovery from normal labor and delivery
    • Vaginal birth: 6 weeks
    • C-section surgery: 8 weeks
  • Postpartum medical issues that delay return to work

Short-term disability does not cover fathers on paternity leave because men remain physically able to perform their regular job duties.


Filing an unemployment claim while pregnant is a poor substitute for paid family leave for parents in private industry. Three requirements built into the North Carolina law preclude this benefit for brand new mothers and fathers.

  1. Physically able to work (not disabled)
  2. Available for duty (not caring for an infant)
  3. Actively seeking new employment (not covered under FMLA)

Unfortunately, disability and health concerns are no longer valid good cause reasons in NC. Parents who quit or lose their jobs while absent from work will remain ineligible even after they recover or become available for new employment.

State Government

NC state government employees have paid family leave funded by taxpayers without a similar benefit. Eligible public servants can take time off from work at full salary. However, the length varies by qualifying reason.

ReasonNumber of Weeks
Parent by birth8
Placement of a foster child4

Also, some state government employees can tap into this program while others may not qualify based on the agency and hours-worked criteria.

  • Cabinet agencies (oversight by the governor) have automatic inclusion under Executive Order 95
  • State Human Resources Act (SHRA) subject agencies can choose to offer the pilot program
  • Eligible parents worked continuously for 12 months with at least 1,040 hours in the preceding 52 weeks


North Carolina public school employees and teachers have four ways to cobble together paid maternity leave benefits.

  1. Sick pay due to pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, or postnatal recovery is available for up to 60 days. Up to 30 days is tenable to care for a child placed for adoption
  2. Extended sick pay is available to classroom teachers, and media coordinators who require substitutes if they are absent due to their illness or injury and have exhausted all accumulated paid time off (sick, annual vacation, and bonus)
  3. Voluntarily shared pay provides economic relief for teachers who are likely to suffer financial hardship because of a prolonged absence
  4. Disability income benefits begin after a 60-day waiting period with a maximum amount of $3,000 monthly

FMLA in North Carolina

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the primary law governing how long parental time off lasts in North Carolina. The rules work the same here in the Tar Heel state as across the country. NC does not have a supplemental law.

FMLA provides two primary benefits.

  1. Unpaid legal job protections
  2. Continuation of health insurance

However, residents commuting across state lines to work are subject to the laws in the neighboring jurisdictions, which sometimes provide superior legal rights to more people.


FMLA maternity leave lasts for 12 weeks in North Carolina if you work for a covered employer, and you are an eligible employee. Otherwise, your employee handbook is the place to turn to learn how long you can be absent and still retain your job and health insurance.

  • Covered Employers
    • Private-sector employer, with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks
    • A public agency, including a local, state, or federal government
    • Public or private elementary or secondary school
  • Eligible Personnel
    • Works for a covered employer
    • Has worked for the employer for at least 12 months
    • Logged 1,250 hours of service for the employer in the last 12 months
    • Work location has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.

Paternity Leave

The federal FMLA is the central North Carolina paternity leave law. Eligible fathers working for covered employers (see above) qualify for 12 weeks of legal job protections and health insurance continuation.

Fathers taking paternity leave can meet one or more key requirements.

  • Bond with a newborn baby within one year of birth
  • Placement of a child for adoption or foster care
  • Care of a family member with a severe health condition