Some people are under the mistaken impression that Social Security pays benefits to employees who are out of work temporarily due to pregnancy and childbirth. Although Social Security offers disability benefits, they're only available for long-term disabilities. To get Social Security disability benefits, you must be disabled and all of the following must also be true:
Pregnancy and childbirth don't qualify for Social Security disability benefits unless:
But that doesn't mean that maternity benefits and time off aren't available to expectant mothers. Some states offer benefits for short-term disabilities, including pregnancies. Your employer might also have a short-term disability benefits program.
And you probably have the right to take time off under state and federal laws—but you might not be paid for that time. Here's what you need to know about collecting disability benefits for maternity leave.
Whether you can get disability benefits for pregnancy depends on where you live and work. A handful of states have state-mandated programs that pay short-term disability benefits for pregnancy when it prevents someone from working. Some employers also offer company-sponsored insurance that covers pregnancy.
You might qualify for benefits if you're temporarily unable to work due to a disability—including pregnancy—and you live in one of the following states:
These state-mandated benefits are usually paid from a state fund that comes from payroll taxes. The programs are similar, but some aspects will vary from state to state, including:
To take advantage of one of these state disability programs covering pregnancy, you must:
If your pregnancy disability claim is approved, you'll receive a percentage of your usual wages (usually about 55 to 60%) while you're unable to work. But these programs generally don't provide parental leave benefits once you're able to return to work.
The exceptions are California and New Jersey, which do have paid parental leave programs that are run through their state disability insurance offices. The benefits are similar to those allowed for disability leave, but both states pay benefits for only six weeks of parenting leave. A similar program has been enacted in Washington state that offers up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave per year (18 weeks if you're incapacitated due to pregnancy complications).
(Learn more about state-mandated short-term disability).
Your employer might also have purchased short-term disability insurance for employees. Many of these policies include disability benefits covering pregnancy. If you're covered by such a program, contact your employer's HR department or benefits provider to find out about the policy terms, including eligibility rules and benefit amounts.
You can also buy a private disability insurance policy specifically for pregnancy. Learn more about how these pregnancy disability policies work.
Whether or not you can get disability or paid leave, you generally have the right to take time off for pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that gives eligible employees the right to time off for their own serious health conditions (including pregnancy) and for parenting, among other things. (Learn how to qualify for leave under FMLA rules.)
Under the FMLA, you can take up to a total of 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. You might be able to use any paid leave you have accrued through your employer's leave plan (like vacation time, sick days, ETO, or PTO) while you're off work, but FMLA doesn't give you the right to be paid otherwise.
A number of states also provide unpaid time off for pregnancy and parenting. Some states have pregnancy disability leave laws, which require employers to allow employees to take time off while they're temporarily unable to work due to pregnancy and childbirth.
Some states also have laws similar to the FMLA, which allow new parents to take time off. To find out about your state's laws, check out our page on state maternity and parental leave laws.
Updated December 27, 2022