Pregnancy is an amazing, yet sometimes challenging, time. Fortunately, many employers offer short-term disability income insurance that can help provide replacement income for time away from work due to sickness or injury, including time away for pregnancy-related conditions.

In this post, we’ll explore some of the ways short-term disability coverage can help support pregnant employees and how these benefits may complement federal and state-specific leaves.

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The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA protects employees in situations where they must be absent from the workplace by ensuring their right to take unpaid leave for certain family and medical situations, including maternity, birth, the adoption of a child or a newly placed foster child.

FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave when certain criteria are met. To be eligible for FMLA benefits, an employee must:

  • Work for a covered employer.
  • Have worked for the employer for a total of 12 months.
  • Have worked at least 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.
  • Work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed by the employer within 75 miles.

There are also several state-specific versions of Family and Medical Leave (FML) that provide additional benefits for new parents.

How short-term disability benefits work for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth

A short-term disability benefit replaces a portion of the employee’s income after she’s stopped working for a specified period of time (typically about seven days) due to her condition.

In most cases, employees stop working at or around the estimated date of delivery. But, in some cases, carriers allow claimants to stop working up to two weeks early based on self-reported symptoms. Employees with a more physically demanding job, or those who are experiencing pregnancy-related complications may be able to stop working at an earlier date.

Once the baby arrives (the postpartum period), short-term disability benefits are generally paid for six to eight weeks, depending on the method of delivery. Some carriers even allow new moms to receive their short-term disability benefit as a lump sum for greater flexibility with their funds. Benefits may be extended if there are clinical complications such as infection or postpartum depression.

Statutory disability insurance programs

Employees working in California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico are also eligible for statutory disability insurance (SDI) programs. Benefits paid under SDI programs are typically integrated with employer-sponsored short-term disability plans and can provide income protection for employees who are unable to work due to pregnancy-related conditions.

Paid family leave programs

A growing number of states have introduced paid family leave (PFL) programs that provide income to employees who are away from work for an extended period of time to care for a family member. PFL programs typically provide benefits for conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, including income while an employee is away from work to bond with the newborn child. In several states, PFL programs work in conjunction with SDI programs.

Leave management

FML and state-specific leave programs provide valuable job protections for employees, but tracking and administering these leaves can be complicated.

For example, in many states pregnancy-related short-term disability leave runs concurrent with FML. So if an employee were to have an uncomplicated delivery, she may be eligible for six weeks of short-term disability leave and 12 weeks of FML. Because the leaves run concurrently, she will be away from work for a total of 12 weeks. The short-term disability insurance can help provide partial income replacement for six weeks and the FML will provide an additional six weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.

It takes time and expertise to track concurrent leaves, which is why some carriers offer absence management programs to help employers administer pregnancy-related leaves and ensure compliance with federal, state and local regulations.

To learn more about pregnancy-related leave options, read our Inside Track educational paper (PDF) >