A person’s eligibility for short-term disability insurance in Colorado depends on many variables.

The Centennial State does not offer a program covering non-occupational temporary disabilities. Therefore, many people seeking to file a claim for benefits will need to identify alternative forms of financial assistance.

Women who are planning a pregnancy have unique choices that determine their level of future maternity leave pay.

Follow this outline to learn how short-term disability works in Colorado.

  • Application forms for assistance, filing a claim, and new policy purchase
  • Coverage rules for pregnancy and maternity leave
  • State laws regarding income replacement and job security

Applying for Disability Benefits Colorado

Most residents are not eligible to apply for short-term disability benefits in Colorado. Several rules exclude most applicants and force them to seek alternate forms of financial assistance.

  • The state does not offer a program covering non-occupational conditions
  • You must purchase private coverage before becoming sick, hurt, or pregnant
  • New policies exclude pre-existing health conditions for 12 months

Disability Assistance

Because Colorado does not require state short-term disability insurance, many people find themselves in a financial pinch when they are unable to work. Private companies and the state government provide limited options for financial assistance.

Emergency Cash

Obtain emergency cash by requesting a personal loan. If approved, you can use the funding to pay regular bills such as utilities, rent, and car payments during the time you are unable to work and earn an income.

Be careful about borrowing money while not working. This is not a grant. You must repay the lender with interest in monthly installments. Therefore, take this step only if you are certain that you will recover quickly and return to the job.

Government Help

The Colorado Peak is an online resource that lists a variety of government-sponsored assistance programs that may help some residents dealing with disabilities. Visit their website to find out if you qualify for any of the four types of entitlements.[1]

  1. Cash
  2. Early Childhood
  3. Food
  4. Medical

Buying a Policy

You must complete a policy application form in order to qualify to purchase a policy and file a claim. Begin the process by requesting a quote. An agent licensed in Colorado may contact you.

Request a short-term disability quote if you do not have a preexisting health condition and your employer does not offer a voluntary option. If you are planning a pregnancy, please read the maternity leave section, as special considerations apply.

Filing a Claim

File a short-term disability claim form to apply for benefits if you bought a private policy well enough in advance. Filing your claims form requires precision. Outside companies audit claims personnel closely to avoid fraudulent payments.

Most companies provide online forms and instructions. Follow the instructions closely. Have your doctor sign the paperwork indicating the medical reason you cannot work. Have your employer sign indicating that you are no longer earning an income.

Short-Term Disability Pregnancy Colorado

Many Colorado families ask about short-term disability insurance for pregnancy. The rules are complex and trip up many women. We will do our best to explain how this works. These are the basics.

  1. Begin coverage prior to conception not after
  2. Pregnancy is a pre-existing condition excluded for 12 months
  3. Individual policies bought outside of employer groups cover less
  4. Personal and group policies obtained at the worksite have the best coverage

High-Risk Pregnancy

Individual short-term disability covers high-risk pregnancy that causes mom to miss work. The same holds true for personal and group policies purchased at the worksite. The doctor’s note must indicate the medical reason why the pregnancy complications prevent the woman from performing the duties of her regular full-time occupation.

Individual plans purchased privately outside of employer groups sport greater convenience. However, they do not cover mom’s recovery from normal labor and delivery. Three groups of women should consider this option.

  • Self-employed business owners
  • 1099 contract workers
  • Employers do not offer plans

Financial help options during pregnancy are very limited. Many women begin thinking about lost income only after they are already expecting. Tell a friend to contact a local agent to avoid this difficulty.

Maternity Leave after Birth

Only worksite-sourced short-term disability covers maternity leave (while the mother recovers from normal labor and delivery). This is a very popular feature for obvious reasons. The expected benefit from a planned normal childbirth often exceeds the annual premium by a substantial margin.

  • Natural delivery: 6 weeks minus the elimination period
  • C-section birth: 8 weeks less the elimination period

Voluntary personal policies bought at the worksite are an easy remedy for paid maternity leave in Colorado. Employers and workers can unite to make this a reality.

  • Employees pay the premium via payroll deduction
  • Employers expand benefit options at no direct cost
  • Women should ask employers to offer a voluntary option

Colorado Short-Term Disability Laws

Colorado has few state-specific short-term disability insurance laws relating to off-the-job medical conditions that cause a temporary interruption in income. However, other regulations help with occupational and longer-term situations. Others provide legal job protections to certain people.

State Temporary Disability

Colorado state temporary disability insurance consists of Worker’s Compensation exclusively. It addresses occupational (on-the-job) incidents and conditions only. The mandatory program promptly provides employees with several payments to offset losses caused by work-related injury or occupational disease.[2]

  • Reasonable and necessary medical treatment
  • Partial wage replacement while the employee recovers
    • Temporary partial
    • Temporary total
  • Death benefits for family members

The state of Colorado manages the nationwide Social Security disability program that does cover non-occupational (off-the-job) accidents and diseases. However, Social Security does not pay for temporary health conditions. The medical condition must be expected to last one year or longer, or result in death.

Residents waiting for approval from Social Security have few options for financial assistance. An approval is not assured. In addition, the determination process often involves appeals and can take up to 24 months. Hiring a lawyer can expedite the process.

Employer Responsibilities

The employer responsibilities for Colorado short-term disability are straightforward and break by occupational versus non-occupational.

Private employers are not required to offer plans covering non-occupational (off-the-job) conditions. Those that choose to support a voluntary program must meet very basic requirements.

  • Withhold premiums from employee paychecks
  • Forward the money withheld to the insurance company once per month
  • Notify the carrier of any changes in payroll or employee job status
  • Sign claims paperwork verifying that a covered employer is no longer earning an income

Most employers are required to provide Worker’s Compensation covering occupational incidents.

  • Purchase a policy from a commercial carrier or self-insure
  • Pay premiums on behalf of all employees
  • May not deduct money from employee paychecks

Family Leave Laws

Colorado family leave laws do provide legal job protections for temporarily disabled workers and their caregivers. Two statutes may come into play if a family member is unable to work for a brief period. Those who qualify enjoy 12 weeks of unpaid job and health insurance protections.

  • The federal Family Medical Leave Act covers about half of all workers.
  • The state-based Family Care Act expands eligibility to more people


Collecting unemployment because of health reasons affords a delayed substitute for short-term disability. Colorado laws permit displaced workers to collect benefits after they quit due to a valid medical reason. It is unclear whether the reason for separation pertains to the employee’s own disability, the care of a sick family member, or both.[3]

Applicants become eligible only after meeting these criteria.

  • Recipients must be physically able and available for work
  • Applicants have to be actively looking for a new job
  • They should be willing to accept all suitable work

Footnoted Sources:

[1] Colorado Peak

[2] Workers Compensation

[3] Unemployment Laws