Wisconsin FMLA: Maternity & Paternity Leave Laws

A federal and state-level Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) pertains to many parents taking maternity and paternity leave in Wisconsin.

Your eligibility under one or both of these regulations determines how long you can stay out of work without losing your job or health insurance. Meanwhile, state government employees enjoy far more time off – supported by taxpayers who get far less.

Unfortunately, the state does not require or offer paid leave benefits or short-term disability, and collecting unemployment is not a substitute until later on. Financial assistance could help make ends meet while you bond with your newborn baby.

Does Wisconsin Offer Paid Leave?

Wisconsin does not offer paid maternity or paternity leave benefits to people who work within the state. Some employers in highly competitive labor markets might provide wage replacement to new parents.

However, paid time off is an exception for most new mothers and fathers – except those proactive few who buy short-term disability before conception.

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 WI 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 in Wisconsin can provide maternity leave pay. The state does not have a mandatory program offering this type of paid time off from work. Therefore, women must purchase a private plan before conception by completing a new policy application form.

Complete a claim form when applying for benefits – if you have the coverage. Both your doctor and employer must sign the paperwork before you submit the claim to the insurance company.

The policy will replace a portion of your income (up to 66%) while you are unable to work due to a covered medical condition – after satisfying the elimination period.

  • Pregnancy disability leave before birth: varies
  • Normal vaginal birth: 6 weeks
  • Cesarean section delivery: 8 weeks
  • Postpartum medical complications: varies


You cannot collect unemployment during maternity leave in Wisconsin for several reasons. First, you still have a job. Second, you must be physically able and available to work and actively seeking new employment.

However, new parents sometimes become eligible to file for unemployment benefits once they are ready to resume working. Many mothers sometimes lose their job because they do not qualify for FMLA, or they remain out after the legal job protections expire.

Unemployment law supports assistance for former employees who quit work for “good cause” reasons because they had no reasonable alternative: after they become able and available for work[i].

  • The poor health of the employee
  • The health of an immediate family member

How Long Does Wisconsin Leave Last?

Your eligibility for the state and or federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) determines how long Wisconsin maternity or paternity leave might last for most people – state government employees get far more time[ii]. The answer could range from zero days to twenty-six weeks, depending on whether the mother or father meets vital criteria.

However, always keep in mind one key point. All of these laws provide unpaid job and health insurance legal protections during your time off from work.

Covered Employers

Determining whether you work for a covered employer under one or both FMLA versions is the first step to estimating the length of your parental leave. The eligibility rules in this area for the two laws are very similar but with two key differences should they apply to you[iii].

Private Employers50 + permanent employees during at least 6 of the last 12 months50 + employees working within a 75-mile radius
Public AgenciesSameNo employee size criteria

As you can see, the WI law is more favorable towards people in private industry who work in smaller office locations. Meanwhile, the federal regulation favors individuals working at government agencies (federal, state, and municipal).

Eligible Employees

Resolving whether you meet the criteria as an eligible employee under one or both FMLA laws is the second step to guessing the duration of your parental leave rights. Once again, the statutes are very similar but with critical variations that make a big difference if they apply to your situation.

TenureWorked for the same employer at least 52 consecutive weeksWorked for the same employer for at least 12 months
Hours of Service1,000 hours in the preceding 52-week period1,250 hours in the last 12 months

As you can see, the WI law is slightly more favorable towards part-time workers (1,000 hours versus 1,250). A person would have to log 20 hours per week for 50 weeks to reach the state threshold compared to 25 hours per week to reach the federal benchmark.

Residents who commute out of state lose the limited safeguards under the WI version of the law but could become eligible under the regulations in the neighboring jurisdiction.

Qualifying Reasons

Determining the qualifying reason under one of both FMLA laws is the third step to forecasting the length of your parental leave. Unlike before, the two sets of rules are very different and create a wide range of possible outcomes.

Childbirth or adoption6 Weeks12 Weeks
Foster care placement012 Weeks
Care of sick family member2 Weeks12 Weeks
Employee’s disability2 Weeks12 Weeks
TimeframeCalendar yearRolling dates

Maternity Leave for Mothers

Forecasting the length of unpaid maternity leave for mothers under one or both FMLA statutes combines the three sets of criteria noted above with several example scenarios. Plus, special statutes for state government employees factor in. As you will see, moms can experience varying durations of her legal rights.

# of WeeksScenario
0Do not qualify for either FMLA
6WI rule for baby bonding
8WI rule adds 2 weeks for a sick infant
10WI rule kicks in three components  

·        2 weeks: mom’s disability before or after birth

·        6 weeks: baby bonding

·        2 weeks: care of a sick infant

12Federal law applies
14WI rule resets in January while mom remains disabled due to postpartum disorders
26State government employees

The 14 weeks maternity leave scenario can happen when mom gives birth in mid-November, and she qualifies under both FMLA statutes.

  • 12 weeks in the previous year under federal FMLA
  • 2 weeks under WI FMLA in January for her postpartum disability or care of sick infant born pre-term

Paternity Leave for Fathers

Estimating the length of paternity leave for fathers follows the same thought process. However, dads do not have a disability, but they could have additional care-taking duties. Therefore, you will see a different set of scenarios and variations.

# of WeeksScenario
0Do not qualify for either FMLA
6WI rule for normal childbirth
8WI rule adds 2 weeks for sick infant or wife
12Federal rule applies
14Extra two weeks in January to care for a sick family member  

·        Premature infant

·        Postpartum wife

26State government employees

Fathers sometimes need to take paternity leave to care for their wives at home before birth, particularly when she is experiencing high-risk pregnancy complications. Also, dads may have care-taking duties after delivery if the baby has a severe medical condition, or delivers pre-term.


[i] WI Unemployment Compensation

[ii] WI Professional Employees Council

[iii] WI Department of Workforce Development