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Unemployment Benefits During Maternity Leave

Updated : August 17th, 2022

Unemployment for Unpaid Maternity Leave

Can you collect unemployment benefits during your maternity leave? Well, you have landed on the right page for the answer! Here, we will tell you if you qualify for unemployment benefits during maternity leave and much more. 

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Maternity Leave

You may have heard this term before, or it may be your first time. FMLA lays down rules and acts as the guiding principle for maternity leave and allied benefits. While some employers are legally obligated to provide employees with time off from work for maternity leave, it is not always the case. 

In most states, only the companies that fall under Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines are required to provide leaves related explicitly to becoming a parent or any other kind of illness. You must be aware that both parents are eligible for certain days of leave at the time of pregnancy and post-delivery of the baby. This type of leave is provided during childbirth, adoption, and foster situations.

Unemployment Benefits during Maternity Leave

The drawback when it comes to availing of leaves during pregnancy is that they are unpaid. Companies in the United States rarely offer compensated maternity leave. This period can be significantly longer, ranging from 12 weeks to a year or even more, if you decide on devoting more time to the child’s upbringing.

The Critical Time

It can be quite a challenge to live regularly during this time, especially if you were dependent on your job to meet financial obligations, wholly or partly. You may look to various state-sponsored schemes such as the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program that offers weekly monetary compensation for the unemployed through no fault of their own and are able to and available for work. And while you are pregnant and on maternity leave, can you be considered unemployed? It’s tricky because this may just be considered an interim period. Remember, you’re still on the payrolls of your employer. 

Your physician may advise you to take time off from your work and rest completely during your pregnancy. In such cases, you will not qualify to receive unemployment compensation since you are unable to and unavailable for work—which is an important eligibility requirement to qualify for UI benefits. 

You need not be devastated if you don’t qualify for unemployment benefits during maternity leave, as you may qualify for disability benefits (only if the program is available in your state). 

Can You Qualify For Short Term Disability Insurance While Pregnant?

Many companies, as an option or under legal obligation, may offer you disability benefits. Short-Term Disability (STD) insurance plans provide income protection for the period you could not work due to childbirth. If you are enrolled in your company’s STD insurance plan, you can apply for benefits when you are off from work due to pregnancy. While these policies don’t provide 100% income coverage, the funds they do provide can be helpful. Also, note that the program does not start until you have been unable to work for a few weeks. 

You can also learn more about additional benefits available in your state that are specific to your situation. Speak to your supervisor or the HR representative well in advance to make the best use of available schemes and welfare offered by both the federal or state government and employer before starting maternity leave. 

WIC Benefits

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, commonly known as WIC, is a federal program founded in 1974. It is designed to help low-income women and their children have access to the nutritious food they need to thrive.

While WIC is funded by the federal government, it is administered at the state level. WIC is available in all 50 U.S. states, 33 Indian Tribal Organizations, American Samoa, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Populations who are eligible for WIC benefits include:

  • Pregnant women up to six weeks after the end of their pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding women up to their infant’s first birthday
  • Non-breastfeeding postpartum women up to six months after pregnancy ends
  • Infants and children under five years old

In states where the WIC program cannot support all applicants, priority is typically given to pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants who are at risk for nutritional deficiencies. The program then continues to segment applicants according to greatest need.

To be found eligible for the WIC program, each applicant must meet income requirements, a state residency requirement, and be found at “nutritional risk” by a licensed health professional like a doctor, nurse, or nutritionist. Income guidelines stipulate that an applicant’s before-tax income be at or below 185% of the U.S. Poverty Income Guidelines. Nutritional risk generally means that an applicant has a medical condition, such as anemia, history of dangerous pregnancy or poor pregnancy outcomes, is underweight, or is of advanced maternal age. Nutritional risk can be established for applicants with inadequate dietary patterns that might put a pregnancy at risk.

With WIC benefits, mothers and children have access not only to fresh foods that support their health, but also to educational information and counseling, screening, and referral to other social service programs. Participants receive vouchers or pre-loaded electronic balance transfer cards that allow them to purchase WIC-approved food items from grocery stores and other retailers who participate in the WIC program. WIC-eligible food items include everything from infant cereals, fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs, and cheeses to whole wheat bread, peanut butter, and canned or dried beans.

The program works. Adding supplemental WIC foods to a mother’s and child’s diet has been linked to improved overall maternal health, longer and safer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths and premature births, improved dietary outcomes for infants and children, and improved school performance in school-aged children.

More Benefits for Pregnant Women

WIC isn’t the only benefits program available for pregnant women:


Other helpful federal and state-level programs include Medicaid, which is a state-level health care program. Medicaid makes it possible for low-income pregnant women to access the health services they need to ensure a healthy pregnancy and birth. Medicaid benefits are administered at the state level, though the basic eligibility criteria are set by the federal government.

Food Stamps

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-income and no-income families with the resources they need to purchase groceries. This program previously was known as the Food Stamp program. While eligibility requirements are different depending on the state, income level must be close to the federal poverty line to qualify. Learn more about government food assistance programs.


Another resource for pregnant women is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This program can offer temporary financial assistance if you are a pregnant woman with no current means of support. The program also provides guidance for finding a job to effectively support yourself and your family.

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  1. Can I receive unemployment for leaving with family medical leave act to care for my own mental well being.

    • You will not be eligible since unemployment insurance is only extended to those who become unemployed due to involuntary reasons.

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