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 bed rest
  • Claiming compensation after childbirth
  • What happens after FMLA runs out

Collecting Unemployment Benefits during Pregnancy

Collecting unemployment benefit during pregnancy bed rest provides a simple illustration of how the new rules may work. You must voluntary terminate your employment because of a “compelling family reason”, and work in a state that accepted incentives to expand eligibility. If you plan to return to work you do not qualify.

  • Twenty-two states accepted incentives allowing you to collect to care for a sick family member
    • Twenty-eight did not
  • Only six states allow you to collect for your own disability
    • Forty-four did not
    • Many government workers are not educated about the new state laws
    • You may need to hire legal representation to enforce the written laws

Debt Relief Application. If you owe more than $10,000 in unsecured obligations (credit cards, personal loans, or unpaid medical bills) you may fall behind on payments with less money coming in. A settlement program may prove to be your best option.

Apply for a maternity leave loan. If you work in one of the forty-four states that may not directly help with mom’s lost income, this may be a more realistic option. It may be your only option if you do not want to voluntarily terminate employment.

Compelling Family Reason

People who voluntarily terminate 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 terminating 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.

Unemployment benefits for pregnancy disability may be available in only six states, provided you terminate your job. 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. This means that forty-four states do not. Most new mothers will not qualify before or after her delivery for her own medical condition. 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 quit his job 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. Again, fathers must terminate employment in order to qualify.

Unemployment Compensation during Maternity Leave

Claiming unemployment compensation during maternity leave is more difficult in some ways, but easier in others. The outcomes depend on the health of mom, her baby, and the definition of “compelling family reason” in the state where each parent works, and if one or both parents terminate their work status.

As you see from the lists above and below, more states allow you to claim for the care for a sick family member, as opposed to those that 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, a new mother is disabled for at least six weeks. She may be able to claim unemployment compensation after birth if she works in one of the six states allowing for an employee’s own disability, and she terminates her job. If she intends to return to work, the claim has no standing. There is zero chance is she works in one of the other forty-four states.

Fathers may also find it more difficult. The baby is healthy, and mom’s recovery may not be a serious enough illness to meet the compelling family reason standard.

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 on which person is seriously ill.

Mom Seriously Ill

Not every delivery goes smoothly. Mom may injure herself 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 delivers 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 terminate employment to care for a seriously sick infant. This scenario qualifies in the twenty-two states accepting compelling family reason incentives.

 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

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

While FMLA job protections are in effect, it probably is unlikely that you can file a claim. If subject to the regulation, your employer must hold your job open. However, once these protections expire, you may lose your job. You may qualify if you work in one of the twenty-eight states accepting incentives.