Motley Fool recently asked, “Are Pregnant Women Eligible for Unemployment?” and as with most unemployment questions, the answer is that “it depends.”
Generally speaking, when a person separates from your organization through no fault of their own, absent misconduct, and if they are available and eligible to work, the state may determine that unemployment benefits are available to that person. Unemployment benefits, which are capped at a certain weekly dollar amount and total number of weeks — depending on your state’s regulations — are designed to replace about half of what an employee was making per week before they were unable to work. This form of assistance was designed for unemployed workers as a means of getting through a temporary period of involuntary employment.
The issue of being available for and actively seeking work will arise in a pregnancy leave scenario.
- If a physician says that time off from work is required, the person on leave is likely not in a condition to be available for and actively seeking work. Since that person can’t work based on doctor’s advice, eligibility for unemployment will be disqualified because the individual is unavailable and unable to actively seek work.
- If the pregnant employee takes a leave or quits due to pregnancy, a compelling reason such as medical inability to perform physical labor (per a physician’s orders) must be shown for her to collect unemployment benefits. However, she still has to show that she is able and available for other work. If time off is taken, absent that showing, it would be considered personal and non-compelling and therefore unemployment benefits would not be available.
- If there is concern for the mother’s health and safety in performing work responsibilities, it’s possible benefits might be granted depending on a strong showing from the physician’s input. Again, in this case, she would have to be able and available for other work in order to collect benefits.
- If an employee takes a leave of absence due to pregnancy, has the child, and wishes to return to work but the employer does not have an available position (after the amount of leave time available per state or federal law is exceeded) then that person would be eligible for unemployment benefits if the doctor has now released her.
All this assuming the employee and/or the organization doesn’t qualify for federal or state FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act). That leave ensures the qualifying employee is guaranteed their same or an equivalent position upon return to work.
Another consideration is that in a number of states, a pregnant person on leave will be eligible for disability leave and entitled to disability benefits. CA and NJ are two such states. In those states, the unemployment office would instruct the person to file for disability benefits rather than unemployment benefits.
A Note to Members of 501(c) Agencies Trust
The best way to prepare for these, and any types of unemployment claims, is to follow a proactive action plan using the array of service included with your Trust Membership:
- Contact the HR Services Hotline for any of your Human Resources questions including topics like discipline, policies and procedures, and leaves of absence. Also, visit the HR Services portion of the knowledge library for HR articles, sample forms, trainings, and more.
- Attend educational webinar trainings including topics such as FMLA Basics, Unemployment Insurance 101, Wage & Hour, and more. And encourage your staff to join by registering for live trainings in the knowledge library training calendar.
- Contact our Director of UI Solutions to forecast the potential maximum liability for an unemployment claim. Or reach out to your state’s Claims Consultant about a claim that is already open and filed—making sure to include the claimant’s name and part of their SSN, when possible.
You, a Trust member, deserve congratulations for your active participation with your Trust membership. The services and claims management teams increasingly hear from knowledgeable Trust members like you, who want to learn more about how they can be proactive with their unemployment claims management. That increased level of communication is important, helping all of us to work together to better control unemployment costs. Controlling costs is one of the benefits of being in the Trust, and taking active steps to reduce your unemployment claims reduces the amount that you need to deposit into your trust reserve account. The end result being, funds are freed up for you to use elsewhere in your budget.
For any questions, feedback, or concerns about your Trust Membership, please contact us.