Understanding short-term disability

What is short-term disability?

Employees may quickly use up their paid sick days if they suffer from pain related to an illness or injury. Short-term disability plans are intended to replace a percentage of your work income when you have used up your paid sick time. 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 work income.

Common causes of short-term disability insurance claims

Some common reasons for short-term disability claims include normal pregnancy or complications from pregnancy, accidental injuries, digestive disorders, surgery, back pain, and cancer.

Who should buy short-term disability insurance?

Anyone who has a full time job should consider purchasing short-term disability. It’s a good thing to keep in mind that what you are trying to do is replace your income in the event that you are unable to work to earn it. In some cases, it may be difficult to purchase coverage on an individual basis, and in many cases, the best approach may be through your employer.

How do I know if I am eligible?

Short-term disability insurance can be purchased by the employer or the employee. In either case, you will need to reference your plan to see the exact details of your coverage in the case of an injury or illness. If you are enrolled in a short-term disability program through your employer, you will need to reference that paperwork or contact the plan administrator for your company.

How do I communicate with my employer about my leave?

In every case, it is important to speak with your human resources representative.

What is the role of my healthcare provider when I am on short-term disability?

You will continue to receive medical benefits while on short-term disability. If you are not able to return to work after the short-term disability coverage period ends, contact your human resources representative for further information. Your healthcare provider will work with you to assess and treat your condition. He or she will monitor your appropriate level of function and work with you to decide when you are ready to return to work. In most cases, your healthcare provider must provide documentation stating that you are ready to return to work and will outline any reasonable exceptions to your prior level of functioning for your employer.

Short-term Disability and Job Protection

Short-term disability leave is primarily a health insurance type of benefit that has little to do with job protection. Whether an employee on short-term disability leave can be terminated depends on various issues, such as whether Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) rules apply, and if so, whether it has been exhausted, whether the employee has an American Disability Act protected disability, and whether or not the short-term disability plan requires the employee to be employed to collect short-term disability. The employer’s business needs and non-health-related reasons for possible termination are also factors.

Short-term Disability and Family Medical Leave Act Can Run Simultaneously

Short-term disability and FMLA eligibility periods may run concurrently. If someone on short-term disability leave is an eligible employee with a serious health condition, such as an acute pain condition, the short-term disability and FMLA leave eligibility can, and in most cases, probably will be concurrent.


Nathan, Susan. (2015). Short Term Disability Basics. Retrieved from

Smith, Allen. (2009). Avoid Common Myths when Coordinating FMLA and STD Leave. Retrieved from http://www.shrm.org/legalissues/federalresources/pages/fmlaandstdleave.aspx

U.S. Department of Labor. (2015). Employment Laws: Medical and Disability-Related Leave. Retrieved from http://www.dol.gov/odep/pubs/fact/employ.htm