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

Traditionally, unemployment compensation programs were designed for workers physically able to work, who lost their job through no fault of their own: because of economic condition, layoffs, etc. Everything changed in 2009. A new law enabled states to “modernize” their unemployment compensation to include “compelling family reasons”.

  • During pregnancy
  • During maternity leave
  • After FMLA

Unemployment for Compelling Family Reasons

Outcomes vary based upon the state laws where you work. Not every state adopted the new rules, and each state applies a different interpretation for what constitutes a “compelling family reason”.

State mandated short-term disability is always your primary option. Five states provide programs which replace income while unemployed due to a parent’s own disability.

Unemployment insurance is generally not intended for people who voluntarily leave their jobs. But sometimes outside factors may force an individual to stop working temporarily. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) provided funding to states as an incentive to upgrade state level unemployment benefits.

The ARRA provides funding to states to encourage the expansion of benefits 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 2012, and implemented the expanded ways a family might be eligible to collect unemployment compensation.

Collecting Unemployment during Pregnancy

When a woman asks if she about collecting unemployment during pregnancy, it is often triggered by doctors orders for bed rest. Twenty five percent of pregnancies encounter one or more complications. Her family may suffer from lost income during a challenging time financially.

Pregnancy bed rest is often labeled a disabling condition. Traditionally unemployment compensation was never meant to address employee disabilities. Short-term disability for pregnancy addresses this concern.

Employee’s own Disability

There are only a handful of states that expanded the eligibility criteria of unemployment to include a worker’s own inability to work. Keep in mind these regulations are still quite new, untested, and not well publicized.

Each of the states listed in this category do not have a mandated state disability program – which is designed for people intending to return to work. This may be the only opportunity to file a claim, but there are no guarantees: each state employs different policies.

Arkansas Illinois Maine
Minnesota Texas Washington

Caring for a Sick Family Member

While it may be difficult for mom to collect unemployment during pregnancy bed rest, 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 he works in one of the states whose definition of “compelling family reason” includes caring for a sick family member.

The states listed below allow a family to file for unemployment to care for a sick family member.













 New York

 North Carolina



 Rhode Island

 South Carolina




Collecting Unemployment during Maternity Leave

Collecting unemployment 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 you work. As you see from the state lists above more allow you to collect to care for a sick family member, than allow you to collect for an employee’s own disability.

Maternity Leave after Normal Childbirth

During a maternity leave after a normal childbirth, mom is recovering from her delivery. Technically she is disabled. She may be able to collect if she works in one of the states that define “compelling family reason” as an employee’s own disability.

Fathers may also find it more difficult collect unemployment during maternity leave after normal childbirth. The baby is healthy, and mom’s recovery from normal childbirth may not be considered a serious enough illness.

Maternity Leave after Complications

It may be easier for both mother and father to collect unemployment during maternity leave when complications arise.

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 collect in this scenario as his spouse may be considered to have a serious medical problem.

Not every baby is born perfectly healthy. Almost one eighth of all babies is delivered 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 new parents to take time away from work to care for a seriously sick family member: their brand new infant.

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.

Collecting Unemployment after FMLA

Collecting unemployment after FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) 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 collect. These new ARRA definitions are very untested. But you can be the one to test it out and generate paid maternity leave benefits.

But 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. Under this scenario you may be able to collect unemployment after FMLA provide you work in one of the states that modernized their laws.