Not Returning to Work After a Short-Term Disability Absence

Many people choose not to return to work after a short-term disability. For instance, many new mothers want to spend time bonding with their newborns, so they resign.

Others cannot return to work after their temporary disability because their employer terminated their job – despite workplace laws. For example, FMLA covers only about half the population and runs out after twelve weeks.

While you never have to worry about paying back short-term disability benefits, you may need to fund past and future insurance premiums without a steady income.

Know what to expect when facing a long drought without a regular paycheck.

Resignation While on Short-Term Disability

Many people are not returning to work after short-term disability because they choose to resign at some point in the process. Learn about the possible implications before submitting your two-week notice.

Paying Back Benefits

You do not have to pay back short-term disability benefits if you quit your job. However, your decision not to return to work could impact the funding of insurance premiums.

Loans for people on disability benefits can help you raise money to fund the monthly costs of two crucial insurance programs you might want to continue because you are under the care of a doctor.  

  1. You may have to pay back short-term disability premiums if you resign and want the coverage to continue – many employers fund premiums through a payroll deduction, which ends when you stop working.
  2. You may have to pay back health insurance premiums if you resign. Your employer has no mechanism to deduct your share of the monthly costs while you are not working.  

Quitting While

You can quit your job while on short-term disability, but you might jeopardize your benefits by resigning too soon. Refer to your claims paperwork for guidance before submitting your two-week notice.

The insurance company might deny your claim if the paperwork is missing a signature. Many forms require three signatures, while others only two:

  1. The policy owner certifies that all information is accurate
  2. The licensed physician confirms the medical condition and treatment
  3. The employer verifies income and the day you stopped working

If the claim form requires your employer’s signature, remember that you need their cooperation. Time your letter of resignation appropriately, and treat the human resources department respectfully. 

Quitting After

You can quit your job after short-term disability without affecting your benefits, but you could jeopardize positive references. Your employer may have held your position open for weeks or months, only to learn that you are not returning to work at the very end.

Submitting your letter of resignation after your benefits end puts your employer in a difficult spot, and they may not appreciate having to fill your position with little notice. Sometimes, it is better not to burn bridges.

Job Termination While on Short-Term Disability

Other people may not return to work after a short-term disability because their employer terminates their job for excessive absences. Several laws offer legal job protections for some people for a limited period.

Collecting Unemployment

You cannot collect unemployment if terminated while on short-term disability – at least not right away. You must recover and be physically able to return to work to be eligible for unemployment benefits.

Apply for medical unemployment after meeting the three universal criteria.

  1. Physically able to work
  2. Available for duty
  3. Actively interviewing

Also, your state must define an employee’s significant health condition as a good cause reason to qualify. However, only fourteen states have this more lenient criterion.

In summary, you can collect unemployment if terminated while on short-term disability only after you recover and if your state has an accommodating definition of a good cause reason.

Return-to-Work Laws

Several short-term disability return-to-work laws prevent employers from terminating your employment during a portion of the time you might be unable to perform the essential functions of your job.

  • The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects your job for up to twelve weeks, provided you work for a covered employer and meet the employee eligibility criteria
  • State-Based Family Leave Laws sometimes extend the legal job protections for lengthier  periods or cover more employers and employees
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to offer unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation so long as it does not create an undue hardship

Laid Off

You can be laid off while on short-term disability regardless of any return to work laws that might apply. It is not illegal to lay off employees during FMLA or other job-protected leave.

Having a disabling illness or injury does not provide you with greater rights than if you were working. Therefore, an employer can lay off any employee they choose.

A layoff or downsizing is a temporary or permanent termination of employment for a group of employees because of reasons relating to the business – not the performance or attendance of the employee.

Fired for Cause

You can be fired while on short-term disability if you do not qualify for job protections under any of the return to work laws noted above. In most cases, the legal job protections do not apply, or the clock runs out.

For instance, your employer can fire you for excessive absences during a temporary disability in these two instances.

  1. You do not qualify for FMLA because the employer is too small or you are not an eligible employee
  2. You remain out of work beyond the twelve weeks of legal job protections afforded by FMLA