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Leave Benefits and Protections of the Short Term Disability Program

Employees who need brief, temporary respite due to certain medical conditions are entitled to short-term disability benefits. In most cases, a worker who is suffering from a serious illness and needs treatment but does not need to go on permanent disability may avail of this benefit.

In most cases, employers often require workers to use all their sick leaves before using other disability options. Short term disability benefits are often used after one’s sick leave has been used. Most plans start paying when an employee has been absent for one week or until the sick leave has expired.


Many employers provide short term disability benefits for their employees by paying a portion of their salary during their leave. A typical benefit is between 50-70% of an employee’s salary. Some larger employers, however, pay 100% based on the employee’s length of service before dropping to a lesser percentage. A typical plan usually pays benefits for a maximum period of 13 to 26 weeks.

This benefit is usually computed as a percentage of gross weekly salary without bonuses, commissions or overtime.

In California, for instance, these are the common short-term disability benefits available to employees:

  1. State Short Term Disability Coverage – Only five states, including California, provide short term disability benefits to all employees. Some states allow insurance companies to provide the coverage; others insist that all coverage be provided by the state and paid through taxes. Among the five states, California has the broadest mandated plan, which provides payment of 55% of the employee’s gross salary up to a maximum of $728 per week after a one week waiting period for up to 52 weeks. The state’s Department of Labor or Office of Unemployment handles all information regarding this short term benefit.
  2. Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – The federal law provides job protections for persons who must take time off for medical reasons. The law applies to all employees who work for a company with 50 or more employees ‘in the same geographical area’. Employees covered under the law may avail these protections if they need to attend to their own medical condition or to care for a spouse, child or parent who is seriously ill.

    To be eligible, an ordinary employee must have worked for an employer for at least twelve months or at least 1,250 hours in the most recent year. This benefit focuses more on job and benefits protection rather than payment benefits. Moreover, a worker who returns to work after taking an FMLA leave retains his former job position, with the same benefits, pay, working conditions, and seniority level. This benefit is available only for a maximum of twelve weeks per year, which may not have to be taken consecutively, or in increments with periods of work in between.

  3. State Disability Leave Statutes - Most states have enacted their own statutes to protect employees’ benefits and their jobs while out on disability. Three states have comprehensive family and medical leave laws that apply to employers of fewer than 50 employees. California has 12 weeks family leave plus 4 months maternity disability leave that may be combined for a total of 28 weeks/year.

Both state and federal short term plans can offer income when you take your temporary leave from work at the same guarantees protection for your job and its entitlements.

To know more about the short-term disability benefits that may be available to you, a consultation with a disability lawyer can provide you with needed information.

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