Tennessee has one state specific law regarding maternity leave: The TN Family Leave Act. Like many state based regulations questions often arise about who is eligible, what job protection benefits are available, and how it compares and works with its federal counterpart.
Paid leave is another commonly asked question and concern. On this page you will find a basic outline of key points and links found at the bottom help provide more details when needed.
- TN Family Leave Act
- Job protection benefits
- Compared to FMLA
- Paid leave options
Tennessee Maternity Leave Act
The Tennessee state law for maternity leave is the Family Leave Act. People often refer to the regulation as the TN Maternity Leave Act. The state based maternity leave law mandates that public and private employers must maintain a maternity leave policy that allows female employees 16 weeks of unpaid leave for adoption, pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing of her infant.
For an adoption, the four month period begins when the employee assumes custody of the child. Both men and women are eligible for these job protections.
The TN Family Leave Act (Maternity Leave Act) has special provisions related to pregnancy and maternity that are important to know should you encounter a pregnancy with complications, and/or your child is born with special needs.
- The employee must have worked with the employer for the preceding 12 months as a full time employee.
- The employee must give at least 3 months notice, except due to a medical emergency.
- Applies to employers with 100 or more employees at the job site or location.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal maternity leave law and applies to employees across the country. Some key differences between the two regulations include:
Tennessee FLA advantages
The TN law focuses on pregnancy, maternity leave, and adoption exclusively and allows for 16 weeks of leave versus 12 weeks for the Federal law. If needs unrelated to pregnancy, maternity leave, and adoption crop up the two laws may run sequentially, rather than concurrently.
Employer size is 100 employees versus 50 employees for the Federal law. Fewer employees are eligible under the Tennessee regulation. The FMAL guarantees health benefits. Employers must continue health benefits on the same basis as if they were working. The TN law does not provide this protection.
Health Insurance Implications
The last difference highlights a crucial element that many couples miss until it is too late. When a couple utilizes the health benefit plan from mom’s employer the cost of vital coverage may shoot up when the need is greatest.
Suppose mom experiences complications during her pregnancy and she misses more than four months of work, or her employer is not subject to FMLA. Her employer can legally require her to begin paying the full premium. Many couples are surprised by how much COBRA premiums actually cost.
The Tennessee Maternity Leave law does not provide for paid leave for workers. Nor does the state have any mandated short term disability coverage. The FMLA provides for unpaid leave only. Can you afford to miss four months of work? It’s great that Tennessee provides job protection, but how will you pay your bills?
Paid Leave Options
Both the federal and state based maternity leave laws provide for unpaid job protected leave. TN workers have laws protecting their job, but not their income. If health care costs also increase the family could find themselves in a bind.
Short term disability
Short term disability and hospital indemnity in Tennessee is an ideal way to provide paid maternity leave benefits. These two policies make great sense when things go according to plan, and protect your family finances when things don’t and you need the full sixteen weeks afforded by the TN regulation.
The statute is in place because legislators understand that complications of pregnancy are quite common, and women often need extended time away from the job to get the proper rest. Also, infants are often born preterm or seriously ill, requiring extended care at home or in the hospital.
Short term disability replaces a portion of mom’s income during the time she misses prior to delivery, and while recovering from childbirth. Hospital indemnity pay benefits directly to the insured for a hospital stay, along with additional benefits if your infant(s) require specialized care in the hospital due to a medical reason.
The silver lining to job protections with holes may be the ability to collect unemployment. Unfortunately that does not seem to work in Tennessee. The federal government provided states with incentives to modernize their unemployment regulations to include compelling family reasons. As of late 2013, Tennessee had not accepted the incentives to expand its program.