Growing families often ask about collecting unemployment during maternity leave. Most families face a loss of income during this time. The answer is – maybe.

In the past, unemployment compensation programs covered only those physically able to work, who lost their job through no fault of their own.

A new federal law enabled twenty-two states to “modernize” their programs to include “compelling family reasons.”

  • Collecting benefits during pregnancy disability
  • Claiming compensation after birth and after FMLA runs out

Collecting Unemployment Benefits during Pregnancy

Collecting unemployment benefit during pregnancy bed rest provides a simple illustration for how the new rules may work. Twenty-two states accepted incentives, and twenty-eight did not. Those accepting incentives define “compelling family reason” differently.

State-mandated short-term disability works most reliably during pregnancy if available in your state. You are eligible even if you intend to return to work. The case for unemployment benefits is less clear when you do keep you job.

Compelling Family Reason

People who voluntarily leave their jobs generally cannot collect unemployment benefits. However, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided funding to states as an incentive to expand eligibility.

The ARRA provides funding to states to encourage the expansion of eligibility to include those leaving work voluntarily for “good cause.” One component of this definition is a “compelling family reason” which includes caring for a sick family member, and sometimes includes a worker’s own disabling health condition.

Twenty-two states have accepted the modernization incentives as of December 2014. See how unique state rules apply differently to moms and dads during pregnancy disability.

Pregnancy Disability

When a woman asks if she about collecting unemployment benefits during pregnancy disability, a doctor’s order for bed rest often triggers the question. Twenty-five percent of pregnancies are high-risk, and encounter one or more complications.

Short-term disability covers pregnancy bed rest in all fifty states. Unemployment benefits for pregnancy disability may be available in only six states. Pregnancy bed rest is a disabling medical condition.

Mom is unable to work. Dad may need to stop working to provide care for his sick spouse.

Mom’s Eligibility

Only six states allow collecting unemployment benefits for an employee’s own disability. Keep in mind these regulations are still quite new, untested, and not well publicized.

Arkansas Illinois Maine
Minnesota Texas Washington

 Dad’s Eligibility

While it may be difficult for mom to collect unemployment benefits during pregnancy disability, the rules are more lenient if her husband needs to stop working to care for her at home.

Prospective fathers may be able to collect if they work in one of the states that accepted the incentives to “modernize.” Caring for a sick family member is a minimum requirement.

 Alaska  Arizona  Arkansas
 California  Colorado  Connecticut
 Delaware  Hawaii  Illinois
 Maine  Minnesota  Nevada
 New York  North Carolina  Oklahoma
 Oregon  Rhode Island  South Carolina
 Texas  Washington  Wisconsin

Unemployment Compensation during Maternity Leave

Claiming unemployment compensation during maternity leave is more difficult in some ways, but easier in others. Outcomes depend upon the health of mom, her baby, and the definition for “compelling family reason” in the state where each parent works.

As you see from the lists above, more states allow you to claim for the care for a sick family member, than allow you to claim for an employee’s own disability.

These distinctions play out differently after normal childbirth, and after a complicated birth. The same logic applies when FMLA runs out.

After Normal Birth

During a maternity leave after a normal childbirth, mom is recovering from her delivery. Technically, she is disabled. She can claim unemployment compensation after birth if her state allows for an employee’s own disability.

Fathers may also find it more difficult. The baby is healthy, and mom’s recovery may not be a serious enough illness.

After Complicated Birth

It may be easier for both mother and father to claim unemployment compensation during maternity leave after a complicated birth. Once again, eligibility depends upon which person is seriously ill.

Mom Seriously Ill

Not every delivery goes smoothly. Mom may be injured during childbirth, or she may experience postpartum disorders. Postpartum depression is a very common diagnosis.

Fathers may be able to claim in this scenario as his spouse may have a serious medical problem.

Baby Seriously Ill

Not every baby is born perfectly healthy. Almost one eighth of all babies is deliver preterm, and may experience a variety of medical complications. Others are born with defects that might need correction, or an illness.

Any of these factors may force both mom and dad to take time away from work to care for a seriously sick infant. This scenario qualifies in the twenty-two states accepting incentives.

Your family may now qualify for premium and cost sharing subsidies for health insurance purchased through a state exchange. The subsidies are income based, and the birth of a child is a qualifying life event.

After FMLA Runs Out

Claiming unemployment compensation after FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) runs out may be possible under the same set of criteria outlined above. FMLA provides job protected leave for twelve weeks.

While FMLA job protections are in effect, it probably is not likely that you can file a claim. These new ARRA definitions are very untested. However, you can be the one to test it out and generate paid maternity leave.

However, what happens if pregnancy complications and/or a seriously ill infant require your leave to extend beyond twelve weeks? It is quite possible that you will lose your job after FMLA job protections expire.

Many states have additional job protection regulations that expand the number of people eligible, or lengthen the leave time.

Florida Georgia Indiana
Maryland New Jersey Pennsylvania
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