Maternity Leave in Tennessee | How Many Weeks | How Much $

Many new parents rightfully ask how long maternity leave is in Tennessee and how much money they get while bonding with their newborn baby or adopted child.

There is no single correct answer, and every family experience differs.

Job and health insurance-protected legal rights can last for 0 to 12 weeks, on up to 4 months, depending on eligibility for the Tennessee Maternity Leave Act and the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Meanwhile, most parents take unpaid time off, while the mothers who bought short-term disability before conception rake in thousands of dollars every month.

Find out where your family stands.

Do You Get Paid for Maternity Leave in TN?

Only women who purchase short-term disability before conception get paid maternity leave benefits in Tennessee – unless their private employer provides compensation during your time off, which is rare.

The state does not have a law requiring paid family leave at the time of publication. Therefore, families must fend for themselves.

Government Assistance

Government financial assistance for maternity leave can help Tennessee parents survive the many weeks of unpaid time off. You may find it challenging to find compensation but could unearth multiple ways to cut expenses.

  • Subsidies for health insurance coverage
  • Food Stamps (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance)
  • Women Infants & Children (WIC)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • IRS-supported tax savings

Short-Term Disability

Women employed in the private sector can sometimes enjoy paid maternity leave if they enroll in short-term disability before conception. However, the benefits can vary widely depending on where you purchase a policy.

Short-term disability in Tennessee covers pregnancy differently based on the purchase channel. As you can see, enrolling at work is the ideal option, provided your employer offers a program.

Worksite-BasedNot Through Employers

Pregnancy complications before delivery



Recovery from childbirth



Postpartum medical problems



State Employees

Women employed by a Tennessee state government agency or higher education institution might enjoy paid maternity leave benefits if they enrolled in the optional short-term disability program before conception.

Met Life underwrites the voluntary short-term disability policy offered to state employees and publishes rules for pregnancy-related claims.[1]

  • Antepartum time off (before delivery) up to 2 weeks is allowed without medical documentation
  • Medical documentation is required for time off beginning more than 2 weeks before your due date
  • Benefits begin after satisfying the elimination period (14 or 30 calendar days) and exhausting all accrued paid leave

Collecting Unemployment

Collecting unemployment during maternity leave will prove challenging in Tennessee, making it a poor substitute for paid time off. New parents rarely meet the three primary requirements.

  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
  3. Available to take on work: new parents bonding with baby are unavailable

However, filing for unemployment after maternity leave could be viable if you meet strict TN employment security law criteria.[2]

A claimant who left recent work due to sickness, disability, or pregnancy shall become eligible for unemployment compensation upon providing proof that she:

  • Forced to resign as evidenced by competent medical evidence
  • Provided written notification as soon as it was practical
  • Able to return to the most recent job
  • Attempted to return, but the employer refused to rehire

TN FMLA Rules during Maternity Leave

Two FMLA-type laws that apply to some Tennessee parents provide unpaid legal job and health insurance protection. Your eligibility under both regulations determines how long maternity leave lasts.

The correct answer could be 0 weeks, 12 weeks, or 4 months depending on the size of your employer, job tenure, hours worked, and employment state – but never 16 weeks, as simple math, reveals.

TN Maternity Leave Act

The Tennessee Maternity Leave Act (TCA § 4-21-408) provides FMLA-like legal job protections for a longer time, but fewer fathers and mothers qualify. The law allows up to 4 months of unpaid time off for pregnancy, childbirth, adoptions, and infant nursing.[3]

Unfortunately, many new mothers and fathers do not meet the more restrictive TN Maternity Leave Act criteria. The law excludes new employees, part-timers, workers at small businesses, and out-of-state commuters.

  • Newly hired employees are ineligible until they have worked 12 consecutive months
  • Part-time workers do not qualify as the law pertains to full-timers only
  • Small business workers are ineligible if their job site has fewer than 100 full-time employees
  • Out-of-state commuters are subject to different workplace laws

Also, the 4 months of unpaid time off does not equate to 16 weeks, as many people mistakenly assume. Do the math (52/12*4 = 17.3 weeks). You have 9 extra days – if you qualify!

Family Medical Leave Act

The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides less unpaid time off (12 weeks) to additional parents who do not qualify under the state-specific Tennessee law.

While the FMLA criteria are looser, many mothers and fathers still do not make the grade and must defer to the written policies of their employer – if any. You must be an eligible employee working for a covered employer.

Covered Employers

TN parents must work for a covered employer to be eligible for 12 weeks of maternity leave under FMLA. Small business workers should consult their employee handbooks.

  • All public (government) agencies and departments
  • All public and private primary and secondary schools (teachers)
  • Companies with 50+ employees working within a 75-mile radius

Eligible Employees

TN parents must also be eligible employees to qualify for the 12 weeks of maternity leave under FMLA.

  • Newly hired employees are ineligible until they have worked 12 consecutive months
  • Part-time workers would meet the requirements if they logged 1,250 hours during the 12 months (roughly 25 hours per week or more)
  • Small business workers are ineligible if their job site has fewer than 50 employees within a 75-mile radius
  • Out-of-state commuters make the grade because the law applies across the country

Article Citations:

[1] Partners for Health

[2] TN Code § 50-7-303 (a)(1)(A)(ii)(b)

[3] TN Human Rights Commission