Unemployment Benefits During Maternity Leave

Updated : September 24th, 2021

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. 



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  1. My benefits ended Jan. 11, 2020. Will I be eligible for 13 week extension and if so how do I claim in N.J.?

    1. John,

      We understand this might be a difficult time for you. We’re anticipating a shortage of staff across unemployment offices due to the massive surge in UI applications considering the pandemic. We advise against calling or visiting the office, as you may not get a response instantly. Please read more about the situation here https://fileunemployment.org/coronavirus/

      Your state may have activated “Extended Benefits (EB)” authorized by the federal government. We recommend you apply for UI benefits online. For more information, please visit your state’s official Unemployment website.

  2. I have been trying to apply for unemployment,on-line and by phone, for several days. My first attempt was on the day that I was required by last name. I truly understand that there is going to be an extremely large,either by phone or on-line,influs of applicants to complete this process. Following the prompts do not seem to work since I am guided to another section that does not pertain to applying. I am extremely frustrated. I need to complete my unemployment claim. May you please tell me what I need to do?

    1. Edna,

      We understand this might be a difficult time for you. We’re anticipating a shortage of staff across unemployment offices due to the massive surge in UI applications considering the pandemic. We advise against calling or visiting the office, as you may not get a response instantly. Please read more about the situation here https://fileunemployment.org/coronavirus/

      Your state may have activated “Extended Benefits (EB)” authorized by the federal government. We recommend you apply for UI benefits online. For more information, please visit your state’s official Unemployment website.

    1. I am not sure how it works in your state. We suggest you visit the Unemployment Office’s website and learn more about it under the FAQs section.

  3. I am confused, my Illinois unemployment was accepted on March 29th, but I don’t call to certify for benefits until Monday, March 13th. I thought they were waiving the waiting week. Now I have to wait almost 3 weeks for any kind of financial relief? Do I not get the 600 for the care plan? if I do when will that be here? will it be direct deposit? Please help me.

    1. Jennifer,

      Please try finding answers online since there might be limited phone support due to the shortage of staffing. You can use the “Resources” or “FAQs” section of the website.

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