The short answer is no. Short-term disability insurance does not offer job protection or guarantee employment security.
Having a policy in place provides a source of income replacement to help pay the regular bills that continue even when you are not working. Return-to-work laws offer unpaid employment protection.
The federal and state return to work laws such as the FMLA and ADA provide unpaid job-protected leave – for those who qualify. A private short-term disability policy completes the picture by making the time away from work partially paid.
- Private and public policies provide income security
- Federal and state return-to-work laws offer job security
Fired While on Short-Term Disability
You can be fired while on short-term disability. The insurance policy does not offer job protection. It provides income security. Return-to-work laws provide unpaid job security for up to twelve weeks for some workers.
Short-term disability benefits can last as long as 24 months, depending upon the policy options chosen at time of application. These payment durations outlast any legal job protections by a wide margin. Your claims experience varies based upon your employment status.
Claims While Employed
Filing short-term disability claims for benefits before legal job protections expire is straightforward. Both your doctor and employer will need to sign the completed benefits claim form.
Your doctor must certify the medical reason why you are unable to perform the material and substantial duties of your full-time occupation. Your employer must certify that you are not working and not earning an income.
Claims after Job Termination
Filing a short-term disability claim for benefits after termination is more complex. You can lose your job immediately if the legal protections do not apply – which is the case for 60% of workers. Even when the laws do apply, you can also face job termination if you miss more than twelve weeks of work.
Filing a claim while unemployed requires that you keep the coverage in force.
- Individual policies purchased directly remain active provided you continue making premium payments.
- Many worksite-based policies are portable. You purchase them at the workplace. Once you separate from employment, you must pay the premiums directly.
Many policies contain a waiver of premium provision, which kicks in after your disability exceeds ninety days. Read your policy language carefully.
Return-to-Work Laws after Short-Term Disability Leave
Federal and state-level return-to-work laws provide a measure of unpaid job security after a short-term disability leave. This is not the same thing as private and public insurance programs, which offer income security.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act, and several state regulations are the three sets of return to work laws that may offer job guarantees.
Family Medical Leave Act
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal return to work law, which provides unpaid job security for up to twelve weeks. Not every employer is subject to FMLA. There are employee size and other criteria. Not every worker qualifies either. There are hours worked criteria.
Your employer can fire you legally while on or after short-term disability leave if FMLA does not apply, or if the length exceeds twelve weeks.
Short-term disability turns the unpaid job-protected FMLA time into paid leave. It replaces up to 2/3 of a worker’s income while he or she is unable to work. Once you return to work, the benefits payments cease.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a second federal return to work law that provides different forms of job security. It requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees. A reasonable accommodation is any modification or adjustment that allows a person to perform his or her work duties.
The ADA may come into play once you have recovered from your medical condition, and feel able to return to work in some diminished capacity.
Twelve different states have an additional return to work law, which offers unpaid job security rights. These state-based regulations often extend the length of time or expand eligibility when used in conjunction with the federal laws.
Only five states offer a short-term disability program, which turns the unpaid job-protected time into paid leave. You must purchase a private policy before getting sick, hurt, or pregnant in the forty-five other states.