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Do Teachers Get Paid Maternity Leave?

Do Teachers Get Paid Maternity Leave?

It goes without saying that teachers have a unique set of gifts and skills that would make excellent parents. The teacher’s schedule is ideal for raising kids when they reach school age, but when a teacher decides to start or grow their family, they will want plenty of time to recover and bond with their baby. This begs the question, do teachers get paid maternity leave? This post should help in answering that question for you.

Teachers in the United States qualify for FMLA, 12 weeks of unpaid leave over 12 months to care for a newborn or newly adopted child. With no federal paid family medical leave laws in place, Paid maternal leave varies on a state by state basis, and leave for teachers is often not included in those laws. Many cities and school districts have their own separate programs that fund maternity leave for teachers. 

There are Only a Few States with Paid Maternity Leave

States with Paid Maternity Leave for Teachers

California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Washington, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Oregon, Colorado, and the District of Columbia have paid family medical leave laws. Still, those laws do not always fully apply to teachers. I will briefly cover each state’s maternity leave laws specific to teachers below.


California has a very generous pregnancy disability and paid family leave law that applies to most large employers. However, California teachers are exempt from paying into state disability insurance and cannot benefit from the program. What teachers receive instead is Differential Pay- a portion of the teacher’s salary minus the cost of paying a substitute to cover their position until they return.

New Jersey

New Jersey offers both temporary disability for pregnant and postpartum mothers and paid family medical leave for both parents, covering two-thirds of their income up to $677 a week. New Jersey teachers ARE included in this law as long as their school has more than 49 employees.

Rhode Island

Rhode Island offers up to 13 weeks of paid time off for childbirth and bonding but has special rules for teachers in public schools. These rules typically apply to cases where a teacher requests leave during an already established break, such as summer and winter sessions.


Teachers in Washington can take 12 weeks of paid maternity leave as long as the school employs at least 50 people, and their district does not already have a separate paid maternity leave program.

New York

New York teachers need to determine whether their school district has opted into the state’s paid family medical leave program. Some school districts and cities have their own agenda that provides maternity leave specific for teachers. New York City recently passed a law allowing teachers to take 6 weeks at full salary to teachers after the birth of a child in addition to any sick time up to 12 weeks.


Massachusetts will be offering paid maternity leave for up to 8 weeks for teachers and other employees starting in January of 2021. The amount provided is up to 80% of the teachers’ average wages, amounting to no more than $850 a week.


In Connecticut, teachers do not fall within the requirements for paid family medical leave newly adopted by the state. Like most states without paid maternity leave, teachers may take the 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA and only the paid sick and vacation time that they have accrued at work.


Oregon will begin implementing paid family medical leave in 2023. Paid leave for school teachers will have special rules applied if leave is intermittent and taken during regularly scheduled breaks.


Colorado is the newest state to adopt paid family medical leave and will implement it in 2024. This is a newly adopted policy, and it is unclear if teachers will qualify for this program or not.

FAQ – Paid Maternity Leave for Teachers

FAQ - Paid Maternity Leave for Teachers

Does Maternity Leave Cover the Cost of Paying a Substitute Teacher?

If you are lucky enough to reside in a state with paid maternity leave in place, it would still be wise to check with your state’s labor department to determine what conditions might impact your paid maternity leave as a teacher. This is because covering the cost of hiring a substitute may not be factored into the benefit structure. For example, in California, a teacher’s pay is cut during maternity leave to cover the extra expense of paying for a substitute, and they receive differential pay.

When Should a Teacher Take Maternity Leave?

The Family Medical Leave Act allows for 12 workweeks of leave to be taken off during the first year of your baby’s life. Some mothers like to wait as long as possible to go on Maternity leave so that they can spend optimal time with their newborn before having to return to work.

Check with your school district’s HR department to determine if you need to exhaust your sick and vacation time before taking maternity leave.

Can a Teacher Take Maternity Leave While Still Pregnant?

Teachers spend much of their days on their feet. Preschool and Kindergarten teachers spend a lot of time getting up and down off the floor. If you have ever been pregnant or met a pregnant person, you know how uncomfortable this can get during the final weeks of pregnancy. This discomfort does not qualify as a disability in all states, but some consider the last 6 weeks of pregnancy short term disability. Other states require a diagnosis such as sciatica, severe migraines, or more severe conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes to qualify for short term disability. Some teachers try to plan their due date to fall close to a summer or winter break, but babies don’t always arrive on a schedule, so many teachers have to use vacation or sick time if they wish to take time off before the baby’s arrival.

Do Teachers Need to Make Lesson Plans for Their Maternity Leave Substitutes?

When teachers take Maternity Leave while school is in session, the school will hire a long-term substitute teacher. The benefit of having a long-term substitute teacher is that teachers do not have to make daily lesson plans. The long-term substitute will be expected to follow the teacher’s daily routine and class objectives. Still, they will be required to complete the lesson plans and do all the work you would typically perform throughout the school week, allowing the teacher to take full advantage of their maternal leave.

Can Teachers That Adopt Take Maternity Leave?

An adopted newborn has the same physical and emotional needs as any other newborn. A mother who has adopted a newborn will need plenty of time to bond with her newborn. Adopting or fostering a child brings another unique set of demands from a parent where the time off from work without worrying about income or whether their job will be there after they return. The same law that allows a parent to take 12 weeks of time off during the first year of a baby’s life also applies to the first year after receiving adoption or foster care placement.

Can Same-Sex Parents Take Maternity Leave?

Federal law requires states to allow anyone to qualify for FMLA regardless of sexual orientation. It is interesting to see that all states that have adopted paid family medical leave also have full non-discrimination protections for LGBT people. Therefore, in those states, same-sex couples who have children can apply for paid family medical leave in the same way any other parent can use.

When Should Teachers Start Planning for Maternity Leave?

Since teachers may not depend on having paid maternity leave, they should start looking at how many sick and vacation days they have available as soon as they start planning for the arrival of the child. Adding those days to existing breaks might make sense to some, or spacing them out over the year in addition to their federally allotted unpaid FMLA time. Teachers should discuss their options with their district’s HR department and/or union as soon as they find out that they are pregnant or plan for adoption. Knowing your rights and benefits is crucial to having a healthy and low-stress pregnancy and getting the most out of your priceless time with a newborn child.

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