Q: A married couple works for us, and the wife is pregnant. One of our supervisors thinks spouses who work for the same employer are limited to a combined 12 weeks of leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for the birth of a baby. Is that true? If the wife has complications and needs 10 or 11 weeks for pregnancy-related medical reasons, would the husband get only a week or two when the baby is born?

Call Mark Soycher at the HR Hotline: 860.244.1900.
Call Mark Soycher at the HR Hotline: 860.244.1900.

A: This couple is limited to a combined 12 weeks when they use FMLA for "bonding" with the baby or caring for the baby after the birth. If the wife needs time for pregnancy-related disability either before or after the birth, that time is considered FMLA leave for a serious health condition and is not subject to the limitation for spouses.

Here's what would happen in your hypothetical scenario: Each spouse starts with a 12-week FMLA allotment. If the wife needs 10 weeks for medical reasons, she would have two weeks left for bonding.

If she decides to use those two weeks for bonding, then the husband could use up to 10 weeks of his own 12-week allotment for bonding.

Together, the wife's two weeks and the husband's 10 weeks would exhaust their 12-week bonding entitlement. The husband would then have two weeks remaining for other qualified FMLA purposes.

If the wife needed six weeks rather than 10 for pregnancy-related medical reasons, she would have six weeks to put toward the 12-week bonding entitlement. If she used those six weeks for bonding, then the husband would have six weeks for bonding and six weeks left for other qualified FMLA purposes.