Paid leave for new parents, both mother and fathers, has been in the headlines as of late as the U.S. Department of Labor promotes its “Lead on Leave” initiative. The question for employers, however, is just how much time may an employee take off for the birth or adoption of a child. Luckily, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) answers the question almost entirely by itself.

Eligible employees (more on this in a minute) may take up to 12 weeks of leave to care for a newborn child or a newly placed adopted or foster child. This leave is unpaid, and an employer may require that an employee use all accrued paid leave while FMLA leave is taking place. During this leave, however, the employee’s job is protected by the FMLA. The provisions of this law apply both to mothers and fathers, allowing both parents the opportunity to bond with the new child while protecting their employment status.

There is one catch to FMLA leave, and that’s that an employee must be eligible to take the leave. This means that he or she must have worked at least 12 months for that particular employer, accumulating at least 1,250 hours of employment during that time period before the start of the leave. The employer must also have more than 50 employees employed within 75 miles of the worksite where the employee is requesting FMLA leave.

Kentucky does not have any laws that require private employers to provide leave for new parents. Kentucky’s Adoption Leave Law at KRS §337.015 does provide an employer must grant an employee up to six weeks of leave for the adoption of any child under the age of seven. This law applies to any size of employer, unlike the FMLA.

Leave provided by law to new parents is limited almost entirely to the FMLA, which contains multiple limitations. Employers may offer more generous leave, but nothing in federal law or Kentucky state law (with the Adoption Leave Law exception) requires employers to offer more than 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees.