Families often ask about receiving unemployment benefits during pregnancy or maternity leave. Most employers do not provide paid time off, and only five states offer short-term disability to address the shortfall in income.

Therefore, filing an unemployment claim might be a good fallback solution – right?

The short answer is – maybe right away during pregnancy, and possibly after a long wait once your maternity leave ends. But job termination must always come first, and the laws in each state make a big difference.

In other words, your eligibility chances are low and challenging to figure out. Follow this outline for clues and tips.

Unemployment for Pregnancy

Collecting unemployment benefits for pregnancy alone is not a viable reason to rest at home before your due date. However, expectant women can qualify while healthy and active, depending on the basis they no longer have a job.

Eligibility is realistic, provided you meet all five universal criteria.

  1. Jobless
  2. Able to work
  3. Available for employment
  4. Actively seeking a new post
  5. Willing to accept suitable offers

The second condition is the most problematic. Pregnancy will eventually hurt your ability to work at your usual trade, occupation, or business. You could qualify for interim benefits – depending on the reason for your job separation.

Alternative Support

The five universal requirements will exclude many women from getting unemployment benefits during pregnancy or maternity leave. However, alternative support options may be of some assistance.

Maternity Leave Loan

Request a maternity leave loan. Borrowing money can help you stay current on regular bills while at home bonding with your baby. The time is precious and goes by quickly. This alternative is best for pregnant mothers covered by FMLA. You will need to have a job and an income to repay the loan in a timely fashion.

Government Help

Financial assistance during maternity leave is relatively scarce. However, private and government resources can sometimes provide monetary help to pregnant mothers who struggle to make ends meet. The aid might include free money, grants, and ways to earn extra cash.

State Disability

State-mandated short-term disability covers pregnancy complications before your due date and recovery from labor and delivery during your maternity leave. File a claim (if covered) through this program rather than with unemployment during the time you are physically unable to work.

Your inability to perform your primary job duties is a critical eligibility factor for both programs. However, you can only qualify under one while unable to work.


Getting unemployment benefits if you quit due to pregnancy will prove to be complicated. The answer to this question has several layers that we need to peel like an onion.

The motivation for your resignation triggers three sets of rules that vary by state.


All fifty states disqualify women from unemployment compensation when they resign because their pregnancy makes them unable or unavailable to work.

  • Complications of pregnancy hurt ability
  • Recovery from delivery makes you unable
  • Caring for an infant at home makes you unavailable


Only seven states have laws that allow people who quit due to a disability to draw unemployment. However, you only become eligible after you recover and are physically able to return to your trade or occupation.

Three common pregnancy-related conditions can fit a legal disability definition.

  • Complications before delivery
  • Recovery from childbirth
  • Postpartum disorders

By definition, a disability makes you unable to work. Therefore, you remain ineligible until you can resume working, and your state permits benefits in this scenario under their “good cause” or “compelling family reason” legal definition.


Far more states (26) have laws permitting family caretakers to file for unemployment after they voluntarily give notice. Many expectant women plan to spend quality time bonding with her newborn baby at home.

Unfortunately, you are unavailable to work while providing family caretaker duties at home (bonding with your baby). You become eligible once you find suitable daycare arrangements that free you up again.


Drawing on unemployment compensation could prove tricky if you were fired during your pregnancy. Most states disqualify former employees when their behavior leads to dismissal.

  1. “Discharge for misconduct” could include deliberate violations or willful and wanton disregard of standards
  2. “Discharge for cause” can result from substandard performance due to inefficiency, inability, or incapacity

Workplace discrimination laws make it very difficult for employers to terminate the jobs of pregnant women – even when their performance slips below standards. Therefore, expect your boss to thoroughly document any lapses with efficiency, ability, capacity, or misconduct.

Expect this documentation to hurt your approval chances when filing a claim – even though state laws are more lenient when medical issues affect performance.

Laid Off

Getting unemployment benefits is simple if you were laid off while pregnant. A reduction in force occurs because of a lack of work, cutbacks in production, or reorganization and has nothing to do with your performance or attendance record.

A healthy pregnant woman laid off from her job meets the two most critical qualifying criteria.

  • Jobless through no fault of her own
  • Physically able to return to the workforce

However, your eligibility will be short-lived once you have your baby because workplace law classifies recovery from labor and delivery as a disability. You will be unable to work for six to eight weeks during your layoff.

Unemployment for Maternity Leave

Filing for unemployment benefits during maternity leave rarely results in an approved claim – at least not right away. You could now face an additional disqualifying factor. You may still have a job!

Remember that you must meet all five of these conditions.

  1. Jobless
  2. Able to work
  3. Available for employment
  4. Actively seeking a new post
  5. Willing to accept suitable offers

Job Does Not Offer

You cannot collect unemployment just because your job does not offer maternity leave. The choices made by your human resources department about employee benefits have no direct bearing on your eligibility for compensation.

However, the phrase, my job does not offer maternity leave, could mean two completely different things.

  1. Does not continue paying my salary
  2. Does not hold my post open

Many employers are not subject to FMLA and can let you go while you are absent. If this happens, you meet the first criteria (joblessness). Then, you can file a claim after you recover from childbirth (ability), and your caretaking duties cease (availability) – provided your state has lenient rules (see the bonding section above).

Bed Rest

Getting unemployment while on maternity leave for pregnancy bed rest is not possible. During the time that you relax on a mattress or couch under doctor orders, you are not able to work or available. Both factors disqualify your application.

Short-term disability covers pregnancy leave for bed rest if the doctor indicates a medical reason for the prescription. Bed rest by itself is not a valid reason. However, only seven states have a mandatory program that covers women unable to work before their due date.

After Birth

Collecting unemployment maternity leave benefits after giving birth is sometimes possible with a long waiting period. Once again, the answer is complicated and has multiple layers.

  • Immediately after childbirth, mom needs time to recover and is ineligible because she is unable to work
  • While bonding with her baby after giving birth, the mother is not qualified because she is unavailable for duty
  • You may still have a job after having a baby, making you ineligible while you enjoy legal employment protections

Mom finally meets the first criteria (joblessness) if mom then loses her role after her maternity leave rights expire. She then meets the second rule (ability) once she recovers, and the third condition (availability) when she finds childcare services.

However, she then must overcome one more hurdle over which she has no control: the laws in her state regarding quitting and dismissal as they relate to her recent childbirth experience (see earlier sections).

  • Disability while recovering from labor and delivery
  • Family caretaking during baby bonding time