Short-term disability maternity leave is a maternity leave that is covered by the short-term disability insurance.
In general, short-term disability (temporary disability) is a broad concept. It applies at any time a covered employee is unable to work.
For the purpose of this article we will only discuss short-term disability (STD) related to pregnancy and maternity.
Depending on the state of your residence and the company you work for, STD may be a viable alternative to FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) leave. The main difference is that STD guarantees paid time off (at least partially), while FMLA doesn't.
Short-term disability benefits can be administered by state legislature,
company policy, union, or individual short-term disability insurance.
At the time of this writing there are 5 US states and 1 US territory that have short-term disability laws in place and require companies to provide STD benefits to all eligible employees.
According to the laws of these states, an employer must provide some type of coverage to employees unable to work due to pregnancy or childbirth.
The extent of this coverage varies area by area and you'll have to check with your state agency. But in general, an employee entitled to short-term disability benefits is paid part of his/her wages by the state, private insurance company or employer.
Here is the list of these states, each linked to the state agency website where you can get more information:
Good to Know: If your disability benefits are paid by
the state, you may have to pay your share out of each paycheck, just as you do for medical insurance.
Additionally, some other states provide STD benefits to their government employees.
In states where short-term disability benefits are not mandated by the state legislature, employers may still offer them.
Generally, short-term disability coverage is employer-paid. As an alternative your employer may offer a program where you need to pay your monthly premium. Some companies offer several options depending on the percentage of your salary you want to preserve when on leave.
If not regulated by the state, coverage and eligibility terms also vary. Typically, an eligible new mom will get paid anywhere between 50% and 70% of her salary for a certain number of weeks. The number of weeks depends on the time of service and how complicated the labor was. But it rarely exceeds 6 weeks.
If the coverage offered by your employer is insufficient, think of taking out a supplemental short-term-disability insurance.
If your short-term disability benefits are about to expire, but you need more time off, you have an option of using FMLA (if eligible). Check with your employer, but typically the time you take off as STD is counted towards the duration of your FMLA leave. So your combined time off will not exceed 12 weeks.
The logic behind taking time off as STD first and then continuing with FMLA is that you get paid for the time taken as STD.
If you participate in your company’s short-term disability program and you think this time will be sufficient for you, use STD, not FMLA.
Most companies require that you use saved paid time off or sick time prior to starting STD (same as with FMLA).
Also, check with your HR department if short-term disability maternity leave guarantees job and pay protection (FMLA leave does).
If your company does not offer short-term disability benefits, but you plan on going on a maternity leave and will need some income during this time, consider taking out an individual short-term disability insurance from a private insurance provider. Think it through in advance and do the math.
STD program is offered both by your state and the company you work for,
you will generally be required to use up your state benefits before you
qualify for the ones offered by your company.
Ask your company HR department what happens to your benefits while you are on a short-term disability maternity leave. Typically the company still keeps your health insurance benefits, but may ask you to pay your share (as you would if not on a leave).
All other benefits like accrual of sick and vacation time, term of employment, 401K contributions and others are usually put on hold until you return.
So what happens, if you decide not to go back to work after your short-term disability maternity leave?
Understand it right: your company agrees to provide benefits during the time you are unable to work, because they hope you would come back as a happy, productive and loyal employee.
Now, if you decide to leave your company, your employer will most likely ask you to reimburse some of what was invested in you. As it may vary state by state and company by company, it's best to talk to your HR department and plan your exit strategy just in case.
Good to Know: If state pays your disability benefits or you do yourself, this money is not considered a taxable income.
companies in the US provide paid leave options other than
short-term disability maternity leave. Check with your company HR.
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