Chicago, IL asked in Employment Law and Public Benefits for Illinois

Q: I’m having a baby in May & I'm wondering if I can collect unemployment while on maternity leave/medical leave.

1 Lawyer Answer
Cynthia Pietrucha
Cynthia Pietrucha
  • Naperville, IL
  • Licensed in Illinois

A: In Illinois, as in many states, unemployment benefits are typically available to individuals who are out of work through no fault of their own and who are ready, willing, and able to work. To collect unemployment benefits, claimants must also be actively seeking employment.

Maternity leave, however, is generally considered a time when an individual is not able to work due to the medical and caregiving needs associated with childbirth. Therefore, during the period of actual medical incapacitation due to childbirth, an employee would not be eligible for unemployment benefits because they are not able to work.

However, there are some scenarios where an employee on maternity leave might be eligible for unemployment benefits:

If the maternity leave is unpaid and the employer does not guarantee a return to work: If an employee is on an unpaid maternity leave and the employer has not provided a guarantee of return to a job, the employee may be considered effectively unemployed.

If the employee is ready and able to work but cannot return to their job: After the period of medical incapacitation, if the employee is ready and able to work but their position has been eliminated or they have been replaced, they may be eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they are actively seeking work.

If the employee is willing to work but there are no suitable childcare options: This scenario is less clear-cut, as the ability to work is contingent on external factors. Unemployment agencies will look at the individual circumstances to determine eligibility.

It's important to note that eligibility for unemployment benefits is determined on a case-by-case basis, and specific circumstances can affect whether an individual qualifies. Additionally, other forms of leave or benefits, such as those provided under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or short-term disability insurance, may be more appropriate for someone on maternity leave.

For the most accurate and personalized advice, an individual should contact a legal professional who can provide guidance based on their specific situation.

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