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Resource Center / Employment Laws

6 Paid and Unpaid Leave Laws Every Employer Should Know About

From mandated sick leave to the Family Medical Leave Act, here are six different laws companies should know when crafting employee leave policies.

The letter "J" for Justworks.
Mar 19, 20204 minutes
unpaid leave laws

In every business, unexpected life events arise where employees need to leave work — whether that’s due to illness, injury, or family reasons.

But creating leave policies for your company is more complicated than first meets the eye. One reason? Paid and unpaid leave laws that vary in different states and localities. Even federal laws may only apply if your company is a certain size.

Get The Scoop on Compliance Updates That Impact Your Business

The Scoop is your go-to resource for staying up-to-date on federal and state employment laws and regulations.

So, how do you keep it all straight? We’ve made a starter list below of six paid and unpaid leave laws that all employers should have on their radar when creating leave policies for their company.

1. Family Medical Leave Act

Under the Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, eligible employees working for private companies with 50 or more employees are entitled to take:

Several states have enacted their own family and medical leave laws, some of which apply to smaller employers, provide greater amounts of leave and benefits than those provided by the FMLA, and/or provide benefits to employees who are not eligible for FMLA leave.

2. Paid Family Leave

There are only a few jurisdictions that require paid family leave. Currently, California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington, the District of Columbia and San Francisco have enacted laws offering paid family leave.

Discover best practices, benchmarks, and laws to consider when creating your parental leave policy in this video by Justworks.

3. Pregnancy Disability Leave

Several states have passed laws requiring employer to provide job-protected leave for pregnant employees. That includes when employees need time off for disabilities related to pregnancy and/or childbirth. In some states, like California, pregnancy leave is in addition to any leave the employee is eligible for under the FMLA.


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, or USERRA, is the primary federal law that governs leave for employees who are military service members. It requires employers to provide leave to employees to serve in uniformed services and reemploy employees who have taken military leave.

Many states have military leave provisions that require additional obligations from employers.

When federal and state employment laws and regulations change, you need to know. Get The Scoop for compliance updates that impact your business.

5. Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that applies to private employers with 15 or more employees.

In sum, the ADA requires covered employers to make reasonable accommodations for qualified employees with disabilities if necessary to perform essential job functions. Accommodations can include modifications to work schedules, such as leave.

Some state and local laws may similarly require employers to provide unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation.

6. Paid Sick Leave

Many states and localities across the country have enacted paid sick leave legislation. States like Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon have statewide paid sick days. And even more cities and states are considering putting additional sick leave laws on the books. Check the law for the jurisdiction your employees work in to ensure your policy satisfies all the applicable requirements.


The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) took effect April 1, 2020. The FFCRA is the second of three major laws passed by Congress in response to COVID-19. Most notably, the FFCRA temporarily mandates covered small and midsize employers to provide eligible employees with paid sick leave and paid family and medical leave for certain specific COVID-19 related qualifying reasons. The FFCRA allows covered employers to claim employer payroll tax credits to cover the cost of providing paid leave required under the FFCRA.

The FFCRA temporarily requires covered employers (generally, companies with fewer than 500 employees), to provide eligible employees with two new forms of leave between April 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020:

  • Emergency paid sick leave (EPSL): roughly two weeks (80 hours for full-time employees or the number of hours a part-time employee typically works in a two-week period) for employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain qualifying reasons relating to their own COVID-19-related care or quarantine or to care for another.

  • Emergency family and medical leave (EFML): 12 weeks (first two are unpaid, the remainder are paid) for employees who are unable to work or telework due to the need to care for a child whose school is closed or care is unavailable for COVID-19-related reasons.

Check out this blog post for more on the FFCRA, and visit our COVID-19 page for additional resources and information.

This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, legal or tax advice. If you have any legal or tax questions regarding this content or related issues, then you should consult with your professional legal or tax advisor.