Tennessee has one state-specific law regarding maternity leave. The federal government provides another that covers more people but allows for less time off.

Like many localized 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 benefits are another common concern. Most caregivers must forgo their income while absent from work. Find ways to make ends meet.

  • Possible forms of assistance while on unpaid work absence
  • Number of weeks of job and health insurance protections
  • Applying the rules to fathers, teachers, part-timers, and small business

Tennessee Paid Family Leave Benefits

Tennessee does not provide paid family leave benefits to private or public workers, which is common across the country. The federal government does not a nationwide policy, and only 6 other states do. This means that 44 do not.

Caregivers and people physically unable to work must look elsewhere to offset earnings lost while absent from the job. Below are several options. Each has limitations.

Government Assistance

Government financial assistance programs may help you survive during unpaid maternity leave and typically fall into two categories.

First, some states have initiatives that replace a portion of income while mom is unable to work or when parents bond with their newborn baby. However, these opportunities are unavailable to TN workers employed in private industry.

Second, a variety of federal welfare programs can help mothers and fathers pay their bills during the time they are off from work. Plus, lost earnings boost your eligibility for income-based supports.

Short-Term Disability

Short-term disability in Tennessee provides maternity leave pay for a minority of women. The state does not have a mandatory program. Each person must purchase a private policy prior to conception. New policies exclude preexisting pregnancy for at least 12 months.

Women who did purchase private coverage before conception enjoy partial income replacement. Most plans cover up to 2/3 of income subject to a monthly limit of $6,500. Two types of policies offer unique features.

  1. Pregnancy disability before due date: all policy types
  2. Recovery from normal labor and delivery: only plans purchased at the worksite

Unemployment Compensation

Collecting unemployment compensation during maternity leave does not work in Tennessee. Three out of the four basic requirements rule out this possibility.

  1. Unemployed through no fault of your own: laws offer job security
  2. Physically able to work: new mothers are disabled for at least 6 weeks after birth
  3. Available to take on work: new parents bonding with baby are unavailable

Filing for unemployment benefits afterward is more feasible. However, it remains difficult for people who quit or lost their jobs during this period. You must show a good work-related cause for the separation.

Paid Sick Leave

Tennessee does not have a paid sick leave law that covers workers in private industry. Consult your company’s employee handbook. Many employers provide this benefit voluntarily. If they have a written policy, it may apply during extended time off.

State employees have access to a sick leave bank. Contributing members can tap into the bank when they are unable to perform their work duties and have exhausted all their personal sick, compensatory, and annual balances.

Tennessee Parental Leave Job Protections Laws

Two parental leave laws in Tennessee offer job and/or health insurance protections to new mothers and fathers. The state-based law supersedes the federal regulation – when applicable.

Spin the roulette wheel to determine how many weeks of maternity leave you get. The number could be 0, 12, 17, but never 16.

Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides 12 weeks of unpaid job and health insurance protections. It is a federal regulation that frequently applies to Tennessee residents and includes the following qualifying reasons.

  • The employee’s own serious medical condition
  • Taking care of your newly born infant
  • Placing an adoptive or foster child in your home
  • Providing care to a close relative (such as your parent, child, or spouse) with a significant health problem

The FMLA also excludes part-timers and people working for small businesses.

  • Worked 1,250 hours in the last 12 months (24 hours weekly)
  • Covered employers have 50+ employees working within a 75-mile radius

Family Leave Act

The Tennessee Family Leave Act (FLA) (T.C.A. § 4-21-408) provides extended legal job protections for both men and women. The law allows up to 4 months of unpaid time off for pregnancy, childbirth, adoptions, and nursing.

This does not mean that qualified parents enjoy 16 weeks of maternity leave. The law specifically indicates 4 months, which many people assume equates to 16 weeks. Do the math (52/12*4 = 17.3). You have 9 extra days!

Many new mothers and fathers do not qualify for these state-based safeguards. It excludes part-timers and small business employees.

  • Worked 12 consecutive months full-time
  • Employers with 100+ full-time workers at one job site
  • Work for an employer located in Tennessee, not in a neighboring jurisdiction such as Kentucky, VirginiaNorth CarolinaSouth CarolinaGeorgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, or Missouri

Differing Maternity Leave Rights in Tennessee

Specific groups of people in Tennessee enjoy different maternity leave rights. Each applicable law has unique eligibility criteria. Therefore, the length of time someone can remain absent from the job always varies.

We saw from the examples above that part-time and small business employees have no legal safeguards. Fathers and teachers also have unique sets of rights.

Fathers on Paternity Leave

Tennessee fathers on paternity leave appear to have similar rights as mothers. The primary difference is that men do not need to take an absence from work because of his own medical condition. Therefore, dads have more time off to devote to baby bonding.

Fathers also cannot use short-term disability. These policies do not cover caregivers. They make claims payments only when the person is unable to work because of a covered health condition.

Teachers and Educators

Tennessee teachers have a confusing array of legal maternity leave rights. We will do our best to summarize the applicable statutes. Consult an attorney. This is not legal advice.

  1. Teachers have automatic enrollment in a disability program through the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System. However, this entitlement is not suitable for pregnancy-related medical conditions. It covers permanent disabilities only.
  2. The FLA appears to cover teachers working in schools with more than 100 employees in a single location. It may exempt educators in smaller school buildings.
  3. The FMLA covers instructional employees regardless of school size. This includes teachers, coaches, driving instructors, special education specialists, and sign language interpreters.
  4. Tennessee Code 49-5-701 spells out rules regarding sick, personal, and professional leave for the teachers in the public schools. None of the above appears to restrict or diminish these rights.


  1. Unemployment Eligibility
  2. Paid Sick Leave
  3. Family Leave Act
  4. Code 49-5-701