Can I Work While on Unpaid Parental Leave? The Complete Guide

Unpaid parental leave is stressful enough, especially if you weren’t able to prepare by building up sick time and vacation time.

It’s also a confusing policy to navigate, with the assumption that every state is different. So, can you work while on unpaid parental leave?

The truth is, there is nothing stopping you from working a second job while on unpaid or paid parental leave.

Now, that’s in terms of federal law, not written stipulations from the employer.

Employers have some leeway, within the constraints of FMLA, to restrict secondary employment options. 

Of course, that makes things seem more complicated than they really are.

The most important thing you should know is the necessity of reading over all of the policy literature from your employer, so you can have a good idea of what your employer’s policies are. 

Parental Leave and FMLA

Now, parental leave and FMLA are not always the same thing, though they often intertwine, depending on a given situation.

FMLA provides 12 weeks of unpaid leave after giving birth or if you are the father of the child. That’s pretty much as far as FMLA takes it.

Some states provide maternity leave benefits completely separate from federal law under FMLA.

So, how you view and deal with FMLA is based on the state you live in. The safety cushion here is knowing that regardless of your state, you will get at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave. 

What About Working a Second Job on Parental Leave of FMLA?

Here’s the thing: FMLA only provides for time off while giving birth and caring for the child for 12 weeks.

There are no other stipulations. No money. FMLA does not guarantee you a paycheck while you’re on maternity leave. 

However, what the FMLA does not include also benefits you because it means you can go and get a second job.

FMLA says nothing about getting a second job while you’re using it or on parental leave. Employers are a different story.

While most probably won’t have issue with you working a second job while taking your paternity leave, some employers will write that in to the FMLA and/or parental leave stipulations. 

Basically, it all boils down to the employer.

The lack of specificity in FMLA, whether it was created that way on purpose or not, leaves a lot of wiggle room for employers to demand you avoid secondary employment while taking advantage of it. 

In fact, there are a lot of employers out there who whill pay you while you’re on parental leave but those payments come with caveats—mostly meaning you can’t go to work for a second employer. 

Parental Leave Laws by State

Every employer is different and individual states have their own laws on parental leave compensation (or lack thereof).

Before we get into the state differences on parental leave and acquiring a second job, there are a few limitations on FMLA and parental leave worth covering. 

First, you don’t qualify for FMLA if the company you work for has fewer than 50 employers.

If you work outside of 75 miles for your primary work site, FMLA may not be a benefit you can take advantage of (check with your employer for clarification). 

You have to work for your employer for at least 12 months or 1,250 hours before you qualify for FMLA benefits.

The reason its done that way is to avoid hiring individuals who are about to come aboard and take off for 12-weeks. 

Some employers, generally depending on size and economic standing, will take care of you if something happens before you meet the qualifications for receiving FMLA.

It just depends on the employer. Also, you don’t want to miss these other popular posts:


The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act block employers from treating you any differently if you have to go on bed rest.

Let’s say your pregnant and quickly approaching your due date. For some, those last weeks of pregnancy are rough or maybe there is a medical complication. 

Regardless, if your doctor puts you on bed rest prior to giving birth, it goes towards your FMLA-covered time and your employer cannot legally do anything about it.

However, going on bed rest and acquiring a second job during that time period could get you in trouble for fraud. 

1. California

The California Paid Family Act working in conjunction with FMLA, allowing for six weeks of paid leave at 55%.

There is no specification for acquiring a second job. You’re free to do so as long as it doesn’t conflict with your employer’s policy. 

2. Connecticut

Only adds 16 weeks to the FMLA allowable total. Does not have any stipulations about acquiring a second job.

Unless your employer specifically prohibits it for pay purposes, you can acquire a second job. 

3. Hawaii

Allows for an additional 4 weeks of unpaid leave. You can acquire a second job so long as it doesn’t conflict with employment policy. 

4. Maine

Provides an additional 10 weeks of unpaid leave in a two-year timeframe. There is no state provision for getting a second job.

You can do so as long as it doesn’t conflict with your employer’s policy.

5. Minnesota

Provides an additional 6 weeks of unpaid leave. No stipulations on acquiring a second job. 

6. New Jersey

New Jersey offers paid leave, so long as its taken in conjunction with FMLA. p

Pay is capped at $524 per week and you can combine that pay with a second job, so long as your employer doesn’t block you from doing so. 

7. New York

New York offers pay at 67% of your actual wages for up to 12 weeks in conjunction with FMLA. 

8. Oregon

Offers an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave for paternal needs. 

Final Thoughts on Work While on Unpaid Parental Leave

Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin also offer additional time off in conjunction with FMLA.

Better yet, none of these states have anything in place that says you can’t get a second job while on parental leave. 

So long as your employer doesn’t have any policy that says you can’t do it, the above states are the best places to take advantage of a second job during parental leave, especially if you really need the work.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top