What is the Difference Between Short-Term Disability and FMLA?

short-term disability and fmla
Americans have issues taking days off. In fact, studies show that less than half of workers end up using all their paid vacation time. That’s why it’s surprising that a company might try to keep an employee from unpaid leave – especially when they may be allowed certain absences by law. What’s more, similar to paid time off (PTO), some laborers don’t feel entitled to short-term disability or family medical leave.

Do you have all the facts about these two types of medical leave or even know the difference between them? What you don’t know may hurt you or your family. It’s time to get informed.

Here’s your guide to the difference between short-term disability and FMLA.

What is Short-Term Disability and FMLA?

Understand the key differences between Short-Term Disability (STD) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to navigate your rights during personal or family health issues.

What is Short-Term Disability (STD)?

Short-Term Disability (STD) serves as a financial buffer, providing a portion of an employee’s income during a temporary leave of absence necessitated by a personal health condition, such as an injury or illness. This type of leave is particularly designed for situations where an employee is unable to perform their job role due to these health issues. Unlike FMLA, STD does not guarantee job protection, meaning that while an employee can receive a portion of their income, their position might not be held for them during their absence.

What is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covers a broader spectrum of leave scenarios. FMLA encompasses not only personal medical conditions but also extends to family-related leaves. This includes but is not limited to, caring for a family member with a serious health condition, maternity leave, paternity leave, or making arrangements for a child’s adoption or foster care. Unlike STD, FMLA provides unpaid, job-protected leave, ensuring an employee can return to their position following the period of leave.

Who Can Use Short-Term Disability vs FMLA

Determine when to use Short-Term Disability (STD) vs the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) based on your employment status and the nature of your health circumstances.

Eligibility for STD

Short-Term Disability (STD): Eligibility is often contingent on an employee’s full-time status and sometimes a specified period of employment with the company, typically requiring a doctor-certified personal injury or illness to qualify. While the exact criteria can vary, it is generally determined by one’s employer.

Some employers might require an employee to have worked for at least 90 days before becoming eligible for STD benefits. Furthermore, non-exempt employees may need to wait for a period of 7 to 14 days post-illness or injury before they can claim short-term disability.

Eligibility for FMLA

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) stipulates certain eligibility criteria to ensure job-protected leave for employees during significant life events. To be eligible for FMLA, an individual must have been employed with their company for at least 12 months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours within that timeframe. These criteria make FMLA particularly suitable for long-term employees.

Moreover, FMLA extends its coverage to employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius, making this provision applicable to a broad spectrum of workers and organizations. The scope of FMLA encompasses various scenarios such as maternity or paternity leave, caring for a family member with serious health conditions, or tending to personal health issues.

The provision of up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under FMLA is consistent with the average length of postpartum job absence, making it a vital resource for new parents among other employees facing family or personal medical exigencies.

When to Choose Short-Term Disability vs FMLA

Determine when to use Short-Term Disability (STD) vs the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) based on your employment status and the nature of your health circumstances.

Feature FMLA Short-Term Disability
Type of Leave Unpaid Leave Paid Leave
Job Protection Yes No
Duration 12 Weeks Up to 26 Weeks
Employer Size Requirement 50+ Employees Varies by Employer
Eligibility Requirements 12 months/1,250 hours worked Varies by Employer
Documentation FMLA & Healthcare Forms Medical Certification
Coverage Family & Personal Health Personal Health
State Laws Federal + State Protections Varies by State
Waiting Period None 7-14 Days
Interaction with Other Benefits Can be Concurrent/Sequential Can be Concurrent/Sequential

When to Use Short-Term Disability

Short-Term Disability (STD) is suitable for individuals requiring income support during a temporary leave due to personal health conditions. Eligibility usually depends on full-time employment, often with a minimum tenure of 90 days with the employer. If the employer offers a coverage plan, choosing STD can provide a portion of the employee’s salary during the leave.

The duration of STD benefits can extend up to 26 weeks, depending on the employer’s policy, offering a longer leave period for those requiring substantial recovery time compared to the 12 weeks typically provided under FMLA.

When to Use FMLA

FMLA stands as a viable option for long-term employees navigating personal or family health dilemmas. Eligibility for FMLA mandates a minimum of 12 months of employment or 1,250 worked hours within the company. Unlike STD, FMLA secures job protection despite offering unpaid leave, thus ensuring an employee’s position remains intact upon return. The provision of up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave under FMLA aligns well with common scenarios such as maternity leave.

While STD provides a portion of income during a temporary health-related absence, it doesn’t guarantee job protection, which FMLA does. Conversely, FMLA, although unpaid, grants a longer leave duration of up to 12 weeks, making it a preferable choice for those facing extended family care needs or personal health issues that require a longer recovery period.

Employer Size Consideration

For those employed in a company with fewer than 50 employees, FMLA protections may not be available. In such cases, exploring state-specific family and medical leave laws is crucial, as some states have enacted laws that extend similar protections to employees of smaller companies. Moreover, STD might present a better option in these circumstances, especially if the state laws or employer policies provide favorable terms.

How to Claim Short-Term Disability and FMLA?

Person filling out a short-term disability form

To claim Short-Term Disability or Family Medical Leave Act benefits, notify your employer about your situation, provide the required medical documentation, and complete the necessary claim forms, adhering to your employer’s policies and the guidelines set by law.

Steps to Claim STD

Claiming Short-term Disability (STD) often entails a waiting period of 7 to 14 days post-illness or injury. Employees might also need to exhaust all sick time and/or Paid Time Off (PTO) before qualifying. The claiming process typically involves several steps:

  1. Notification: Notify your employer as soon as possible about your need for short-term disability leave.
  2. Medical Certification: Obtain a medical certification from a healthcare provider documenting your condition and the estimated duration of your disability.
  3. Claim Form Submission: Fill out a claim form, which may be provided by your employer or the insurance company. This may include a Social Security Administration disabilities form, submission, and medical certification.
  4. Employer Verification: Your employer may need to complete a section of the claim form verifying your employment and earnings.
  5. Insurance Company Review: The insurance company will review your claim, which may include verifying the information with your healthcare provider and employer.
  6. Claim Approval: Upon approval, benefits typically begin after the waiting period, and the duration of benefits can range from a few weeks up to 26 weeks, depending on the policy.

In some instances, an additional medical insurance form may be required to qualify for compensation. It’s also important to note that the specifics of the claiming process and the required documentation may vary depending on the employer and the insurance provider.

Steps to Claim FMLA

Claiming FMLA involves a systematic documentation process to validate the necessity and eligibility for the leave. The process includes several steps to ensure all required information is accurately provided:

  1. Notification: Inform your employer about your need for FMLA leave as soon as possible, adhering to your company’s specific notification policies.
  2. FMLA Eligibility Form: Obtain and fill out an FMLA eligibility form, which can be provided by your employer or found on the Department of Labor’s website. This form is crucial for establishing your eligibility based on employment tenure and the nature of the health or family circumstances.
  3. Healthcare Certification: Secure a healthcare certification form from a healthcare provider documenting the medical condition or family health issue necessitating the leave. This form should be submitted alongside the FMLA eligibility form to your employer.
  4. Employer Verification: Your employer may have a process for verifying the information provided, ensuring it complies with the FMLA requirements.
  5. Additional Documentation (if applicable): Military members or individuals with special circumstances may need to provide additional documentation. This could include supplemental forms providing further information regarding the military member’s deployment, injury, or illness.
  6. Submission: Ensure all forms and necessary documentation are submitted to your employer within the stipulated timelines. Keeping a copy of all submitted documents for your records is advisable.

It’s essential to maintain clear communication with your employer throughout the process and adhere to any additional requirements or guidelines specified by your employer or state law regarding FMLA leave.

Contact an Employment & Labor Law Attorney in Florida

Do you believe you were unlawfully denied family medical leave or wrongfully terminated based on your absence? Contact the FMLA lawyers and wrongful termination lawyers at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., for a free consultation regarding your FMLA rights.

Learn more about your rights under the FMLA. Download our free eBook below.

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