Legal Articles

Attorney Chandler SurrencyThe Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Parental Leave Requirements in Iowa

Chandler Surrency | Hopkins & Huebner, P.C. | Des Moines Office

My husband and I did a big thing recently – we had a baby! Monroe Vivienne was born a few months ago, and already she is the best thing that has ever happened to us. I was lucky my office gave me eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave. My husband’s company, on the other hand, doesn’t offer paternity leave, so he used a combination of sick and vacation days to stay home with us for the first week. I have friends whose employers give four months of paid maternity leave, others who get an extra two weeks of leave for a c-section rather than a vaginal birth, and some who can take their weeks of paid parental leave any time within the first year of their child’s life. Some friends have to use up vacation or sick days following the birth or adoption of a child, while others do not. These widely varying policies got me thinking about the parental leave requirements in Iowa.

Parental Leave Requirements and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

So what are employers required to do for new parents? The short answer is – not much. There is no paid leave requirement for mothers or fathers in Iowa. For employees that qualify, however, there might be a requirement to provide unpaid leave. 

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to both the birth of a newborn child of an employee and the placement with an employee of a child for adoption or foster care, and it applies equally to both mothers and fathers. It provides up to twelve weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that group health benefits be maintained during the leave. Generally, FMLA applies to companies that have 50 or more employees.  Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer for at least twelve months and for at least 1,250 hours within the past twelve months. 

Iowa Civil Rights Act

Additionally, the Iowa Civil Rights Act treats pregnancy as a temporary disability. Under the Act, employers with at least four employees must allow up to eight weeks of unpaid leave to a pregnant employee. 

While the United States does not have nationally mandated paid leave, several states have enacted their own paid parental leave policies. Though Iowa is not one of them, many Iowa employers recognize the benefit of paid parental leave and voluntarily offer such leave to their employees.