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Parental Leave Guidelines

Parental Leave Guidelines

NDSU has no specific or formal policy regarding maternity/paternity leave or parental leave. However, when faced with parental issues, such as the birth of an infant, adoption of a child or placement of a foster child, most employees use a combination of the following leave options:

  • Annual (Vacation) Leave
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Sick/Dependent Care Leave
  • Leave of Absence without Pay

The following types of leave are found at the NDSU Policy Manual website:

  1. NDSU Policy 130: Annual Leave
  2. NDSU Policy 135: Family Medical Leave (FMLA) – Uncompensated
  3. NDSU Policy 143: Sick/Dependent Leave
  4. NDSU Policy 149: Leave without Pay

Listed below is the process for securing parental leave prior to the event:

  1. Eligible benefited employees may use different combinations of leave available including annual leave, sick/dependent leave, family medical leave or leave without pay for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child. Non-benefited employees may apply for leave without pay for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.
  2. Employees should give as much notice as is reasonably practical to their supervisor when requesting parental leave (maternity/paternity leave). After informing their supervisor, employees need to contact the NDSU Human Resource Office at 701-231-8961 or for the Family Medical Leave of Absence Request paperwork and the Birth/Adoption packet.
  3. After obtaining the Family Medical Leave of Absence Request Form, employees need to develop a written leave plan and submit the plan, along with the request form, to their supervisor for review and signature. As employees develop a leave of absence plan they should talk with their supervisor and consider the following items:
  • What do you estimate as your leave date and return date?
  • What special events/activities need to be covered by other staff within the office or department?
  • Is it okay to not schedule educational programs or events for a couple of months?
  • Are there conferences/workshops that you need to attend while on parental leave?
  • Is it okay to gradually return to work?
    Reasonable contact with your supervisor while on leave is encouraged to discuss your return to work or potential work-related issues that may be of concern. In addition, you need to visit with your supervisor’s administrative assistant regarding the submission of leave cards in a timely manner.
  • Contact the NDSU Office of Human Resources/Payroll at 701-231-8961 to discuss any questions regarding parental leave that have not been addressed such as:
  • Does flex continue to deduct funds while you are on unpaid leave?
  • Does using FMLA affect your insurance status?
  • What do you need to do to maintain your insurance coverage while using unpaid leave?

If you intend to add your newborn/child to your medical insurance, you MUST contact the Office of Human Resources/Payroll. They can provide you with a packet of benefits-related information.  Any benefits changes must be submitted to the Office of Human Resources/Payroll within 31 days of your child’s birth, date of adoption or foster placement. If the paperwork is not submitted in time, you may need to wait until the next open enrollment period to make these changes.

Parental Leave Questions and Options for Consideration

Do I have to exhaust my paid leave before I use unpaid leave?
Yes, employees are required to exhaust all applicable paid leaves prior to taking unpaid FMLA.  Most employees use a combination of sick and annual leave during their parental leave. For the delivering parent, 6 weeks of sick leave (if available) is allowed.  If additional time is needed for recovery, NDSU will require a medical certification from your healthcare provider indicating the additional recovery time.  Following the use of sick leave, the delivering employee will switch to annual leave.  After paid leave is exhausted, an employee may elect to use the remainder of their FMLA allowance as unpaid.  In the case of adoption, foster placement or for the non-delivering parent, dependent sick leave may be used if applicable, and then annual leave should be used until exhausted.  Following that, the employee may elect to use the remainder of their FMLA allowance as unpaid.

What is the normal amount of time that I can take off of work for parental leave?

The amount of leave taken varies from employee to employee. FMLA allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth, adoption or placement of a foster child. You may elect to use less than 12 weeks if you choose.

What types of leave are available when adoption of a child or a foster child placement occurs?
Employees are entitled to utilize their annual leave to welcome a new child into their home. Employees who wish to attend to the needs of their child who is ill or to assist them in obtaining other services related to their health or well-being may use a maximum of 80 hours of available dependent sick leave. Other forms of uncompensated leave that can be used include FMLA or an unpaid leave of absence.

When do I need to submit paperwork for taking parental leave?
First, you need to visit with your supervisor regarding your parental leave. The Office of Human Resources/Payroll requires that the Family Medical Leave of Absence Form be completed and returned.

What are my options if I have worked for less than 12 months or 1250 hours in the previous 12 months?
Review Section 149: Leave without Pay, at before contacting either your supervisor or Human Resources to discuss options.

What is FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act)?
FMLA is a federal law that allows unpaid time to employees who have worked for 12 months (need not be consecutive) and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous 12 months. FMLA provides employment protection to eligible employees and allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain medical and family events in a 12-month period. For example, both men and women can apply for FMLA to care for an infant, for the adoption of a child, for placement of a foster child, to care of an immediate family member (includes a spouse, child or parents) with a serious health condition, or for a worker’s own serious health condition.  FMLA can be used in one, 12-week segment or intermittently as needed. In addition, FMLA provides that your health insurance, basic life insurance and EAP benefits continue to be paid by the University during your

NDSU uses a “rolling calendar year” to determine eligibility for FMLA. This means that when you request leave, only the leave taken within the past 12 months will count against your 12-week maximum. For example, Ann took two weeks of FMLA leave December 1-14. She requests a leave a few months later for the time period of May 20-30. Looking back over the past 12 months, Ann had only used two weeks, so she is entitled to 10 of the maximum 12 weeks.

What types of leave qualify for FMLA?

There are four types of leave available to you:

  • Medical Leave is for your own serious health condition or a serious health condition for your immediate family member (parent/child/spouse).  If you are taking a medical leave, contact the Office of Human Resources/Payroll to request
    family medical leave paperwork. Once completed, return the paperwork to the Office of Human Resources/Payroll for processing. After eligibility is determined, notice will be sent to both the employee and supervisor.
  • Family Leave is for the birth of your child or placement of an adoptive or foster child in your home. Leave must be taken within 12 months of the birth or placement of the child in your home. If you are requesting a family leave, contact
    the Office of Human Resources/Payroll to request family medical leave paperwork. Once completed, return paperwork to the Office of Human Resources/Payroll for processing. After eligibility is determined, notice will be sent to both the employee and the supervisor.

The other two forms of FMLA that you should be aware of include:

  • Any qualifying exigency or immediate action rising out of the fact that the spouse, son, daughter or parent of the employee is on active duty or has been notified of an impending call to active duty status.
  • To care for a service member who is recovering from a serious illness or injury sustained in the line of active duty who is a spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin. (This entitles the employee up to 26 weeks of leave in a single, 12-month period).

FMLA requires pre-approval for use of family leave. Should I get pre-approval just in case?
Applying for FMLA is advantageous.  It protects your employment and allows you to have a plan in place if something unexpected occurs.

Am I required to use all my sick or annual leave before using unpaid FMLA?
Yes, you will be required to use all applicable paid leave prior to using unpaid FMLA.  For the delivering parent, 6 weeks of sick leave (if available) may be used for recovery.  The use of sick leave for longer than 6 weeks will require a medical certification from your health care provider.  Following the use of sick leave, annual leave shall be used.  After the applicable leave balances are exhausted, employees may take the remainder of their FMLA allowance as unpaid.

Can I bring a child to work?
The NDSU General Counsel’s website provides a description of family friendly policies at  Another source of information for employees is located at NDSU Policy 134.1: Workplace and
Family/Dependent Responsibilities regarding children at the worksite.
Employees located at a County Extension Office need to follow the county courthouse policy regarding children at a workplace site. In most cases because of liability issues, children are not allowed at worksites.

If my spouse is also an employee of NDSU, are we both required to take parental leave at the same time?
As employees of NDSU, parents are allowed to use their FMLA together or one parent can take leave for the first segment followed by the other parent. If both employees work for the state, they are both eligible for up to 12 weeks of FMLA for any qualified reason. Leave must be used within 12 month of the birth or placement of the child in the case of adoption or foster placement.

If I need surgery or if I have an unusual situation with a newborn, can I apply for donated leave?
The shared leave program allows employees who qualify to receive leave donations from other state employees to cover their time away from work. To apply for shared leave, you must contact the Office of Human Resources/Payroll to request the appropriate paperwork.  Shared leave may be requested due to an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition, that is of an extraordinary or severe nature, and involves the employee, a relative of the employee or household member of the employee.

  • "relative of the employee" is limited to the spouse, child, stepchild, grandchild, grandparent, stepparent or parent of the employee.
  • “household members" means those persons who reside in the same home and who have reciprocal duties to and provide financial support for one another. This includes foster children and legal wards even if they do not live in the household.
  • "extraordinary or severe" means serious, extreme or life threatening. It does not include conditions associated with normal pregnancy.

Before leave donations may be accepted, all annual leave and all applicable sick and compensatory time must be exhausted.

If I have not been employed for one year and FMLA is not available, what are my options?
When this happens, employees may use their applicable, accumulated sick and annual leave before taking the option of leave without pay. When using leave without pay, there is no compensation nor do you earn sick or annual leave. Should you select leave without pay as an option, you will need to submit either a sick or annual leave card for eight hours for each month to maintain your health insurance coverage or make provisions for premiums to be deducted.

Can leave without pay be denied for use with parental leave?
Often leave without pay is the last resort for employees and is typically supported providing the employee is in good standing. For broadbanded employees, leave without pay for less than 21 working days may be authorized by the Extension Director upon recommendation by the employee’s supervisor.  Leave without pay for more than 21 working days requires advance approval of the appropriate vice president and should be requested through the Office of Human Resources/Payroll.
For nonbroadbanded employee approval, submit the request for leave without pay form linked to Policy 149 at which requires multiple signatures for approval.

What happens if I decide not to come back to work after the end of leave?
NDSU has the right to seek reimbursement for the insurance premiums paid during the absence if the employee has used FMLA.

What is the policy regarding nursing mothers taking breaks at work?
As part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), commonly referred to as the healthcare reform act, employers are required to provide reasonable break time for nursing mothers.  The act stipulates that an employer shall provide:

  • a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has the need to express milk; and
  • a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by the employee to express breast milk.
  • An employer shall not be required to compensate an employee receiving reasonable break time under paragraph one for any work time spent for such purpose.

Source: NDSU Policy Manual
Oct. 2010
Revised Oct. 2012

Filed under: Parental Leave, Policies
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