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. This page provides an outline of key points and links found throughout help provide more details when needed.

  • Paid leave options
  • TN Family Leave Act
  • Compared to FMLA

Tennessee Paid Maternity 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, a family could find themselves in a bind.

Maternity leave pay is extremely rare for most expectant women. The state does not offer short-term disability, you must purchase a private policy prior to conception, and unemployment compensation does not provide any financial assistance.

Maternity Leave Loans

Request a maternity leave loan to get the cash you need to fund regular expenses while you bond with your baby. If you are currently expecting, this is most likely your only option. Repay the note via affordable monthly payments once your return to work.

Short-term disability

Tennessee laws do not require a temporary disability program, which might provide for paid maternity leave benefits. Employers do not have to offer an option. The state does not require employees to enroll.

Short-term disability in Tennessee is ideal for future pregnancies as a way to provide paid maternity leave benefits. You must purchase a private policy prior to conception. Private plans exclude pre-existing medical conditions for twelve months.

Unemployment Compensation

The positive aspect to job protections with holes may be the ability to collect unemployment during maternity leave. 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 2015, Tennessee had not accepted the incentives to expand its program.

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.


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.
  • The law applies to employers with 100 or more employees at the job site or location.

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.

Versus FMLA

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.

FMLA advantages

Employer size is 100 employees versus 50 employees for the Federal law. Fewer employees are eligible under the Tennessee regulation. The FMLA 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. The cost of COBRA premiums shocks many couples.

Request a health insurance quote if this scenario happens to you. Loss of your medical plan is a qualifying life event, which enables you to make changes outside of open enrollment. The annual open enrollment for private plans spans November through February each year.

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 is great that Tennessee provides job protection, but how will you pay your bills?