Explaining short-term disability to your family and friends

What is short-term disability?

Employees may quickly “use up” their paid sick days if they suffer a debilitating illness or injury. Short-term disability plans are intended to replace a percentage of your salary when you have used up your paid sick time, but cannot return to work. Some employers and government agencies fund these plans for employees, but you can also buy your own disability insurance if you are not covered by a group plan. (On-the-job injuries are covered by worker’s compensation insurance.) Typical short-term disability plans may provide you with up to 60 percent of your pre-disability base salary, but benefits vary by plan and employer. There are many factors that determine your short-term benefits, so it is best to contact your human resources representative if you do not have your own plan.

Explaining how your pain and recovery affects your ability to work – at work and at home

You need to be upfront and clear with family and friends on what you are able to do and what you need help with. Fortunately and unfortunately, people get wrapped up in their own lives. Plain and simple, the best way to let someone know what you need is to tell them. If your pain condition will likely affect you when you return to work, you may need to contact human resources to see if accommodations can be made (for example, if you need a special chair, any special equipment, or a change in schedule in order to continue do your job effectively without suffering or worsening your pain.)

Discussing financial impacts of leave

The short-term disability benefit may vary and impact you financially. This may be one of the more difficult topics to broach with family if lifestyle modifications need to be made due to less funds coming into the household. It is important to have candid conversations with your family about the impact of your short-term disability on the family finances.

Family and support network decision making about when you are ready to return to work

Ultimately it is between you and your healthcare provider regarding the decision that you are able to return to work, and what is the most appropriate decision from a medical point of view. If you feel that you are ready, and your healthcare provider feels that you are ready, your family and support network will back the decision as well.

Addressing family and support network concerns that you might be returning to work too quickly

When it comes to pain, only you know how much pain you feel, and what you can handle. It is important to be true to yourself regarding what you can handle and what you can’t. Whether or not you are able to make a full recovery from your pain condition, your family and support network is crucial to your progress. If you aren’t getting the support that you need it is important to speak up.

Beyond paperwork and finances…communication and emotions

While an injury like a broken arm is not fun, there are more serious illnesses and injuries that will require more involvement from medical professionals and those around you. During this period, it is most important to take care of yourself and to let those around you know what you need. If your pain doesn’t completely resolve, you may not be able to get back to your pre-injury or pre-pain life. This is a time when communication and sharing feelings are most important. Try to maintain a positive attitude – it can sometimes impact your ability to function, even in the face of pain.


Brody, Jane. (2007). Chronic Pain: A Burden Often Shared. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/13/health/13brod.html?_r=0

New York Times. (2014). Looking Out for Yourself With Disability Insurance. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/your-money/life-and-disability-insurance/flat-on-your-back-not-a-good-time-to-consider-long-term-disability-insurance.html

Sullivan, Paul. (2009). Life and Disability Insurance: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from