Occupational Therapists: Family Planning? Expecting to be Pregnant? Consider Short-Term Disability Insurance

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored or affiliate post to sell you insurance. I am writing this post because I wish I knew about this resource when I was family planning around the time of open-enrollment with my employer.

Introduction

Are you a future mom planning to have a baby such as next year? It may be worthwhile to consider short-term disability (STD) insurance especially with your employer (especially if you are a new grad getting your first job and planning to start a family). If you are a father, this is a worthwhile read as well because some benefits will pertain to you (see FAQ end of the article).

Open-enrollment with employers is often at the end of the year to make benefit elections and it can only chosen once a year unless you meet specific exceptions (e.g., marriage). It is never too early to start planning and thinking about your options.

Why Bother?

Getting paid related to your pregnancy, that’s why!

Financially, it can make sense to get short-term disability coverage for a planned pregnancy rather than miss work for weeks or months without pay while you experience pregnancy complications or childbirth. If you work for less than a year with an employer (for most employers), you often do not receive paid benefits related to your pregnancy before/during your leave of absence.

Important Consideration in Family Planning

Many employers and states may require you to have worked at the company for a certain length of time for benefits to be provided.

Confusing Terminology

Did you know that despite being called “short-term disability”, pregnancy can be considered a situation that is covered as a “disability”? Many employer benefit information packets do not state this during the onboarding process!

Pregnancy is one of the most common causes of short-term disability leave.

Short-Term Disability Types

Short-Term disability can be provided and offered:

  • By your employer (offered to all or optional pay into via opt-in). *Note that employer’s only sponsor or refer coverage, but the insurance company handles and pays the actual claim.
  • By your state (depends on state). *In this case, you may not need to be covered by an employer plan in order to qualify for short-term disability pregnancy benefits under the state.
  • Purchased privately and commercially through a third party.

Some employers offer insurance programs that provide you with financial protection while you are deemed unable to work due to pregnancy. Short term disability policies vary, but can provide 50-100% of your income. Often times, this is for about six weeks after you give birth, eight weeks if you have a C-section. Depending on the policy, short-term disability can provide financial protection for potentially longer if there are complications with your pregnancy.

Consider short-term disability among your benefits

When to Enroll

Most of the time, you sign up for short-term disability (during open enrollment) before you become pregnant if you want the coverage to extend to the pregnancy. If you sign up during the pregnancy, you can still be covered for unexpected illnesses or accidents that are unrelated to your condition.

So this does require some planning and foresight – hence the purpose of writing this article.

Terminology

  • Elimination Period: how long you need to be out of work before your benefits begin. You may need to use vacation or sick days if you have a long elimination period.
  • Benefit Period: how long you can claim payments while you are unable to work.
  • Benefit Amount: how much you’ll receive, based on a percentage of your income.

Recommended Employer Research

For employer-sponsored short-term disability, call HR and ask about what specifics of short-term disability benefits. Some key points to ask about include:

  • How long do you have to have work to be eligible?
  • Is coverage provided before, during, or after pregnancy?
  • Is coverage provided and extended for complications?
  • What percentage of wages is covered? Is there a limit?
  • What common situations are not covered?
  • Do these benefits replace or work in conjunction with state benefits?
  • What is required (documentation/proof) to open and qualify for the claim?
  • What is the monthly premium?
  • When can you re-qualify for coverage if you have a 2nd pregnancy following the first claim’s pregnancy?

Additional Resources to Consider

  • Contact your state to ask about specific benefits as well. Each state (and even city) sets their own rules!
  • Ask about FMLA. Federal FMLA protects your job while you’re away on family and medical leave for up to 12 weeks.
  • If your employer provides a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or a Health Savings Account (HSA), consider using them to reduce taxes to pay for pregnancy-related expenses. In general, which you can choose (FSA vs. HSA) depends on if you enroll in your employer’s HMO or PPO plan.
  • Notify your supervisor early on to plan for your leave of absence (if you are comfortable sharing).

FAQs

  • Is my job protected while on short-term disability?

Short-term disability payments are a financial payment and are not related to whether an employer is required to keep your job, but FMLA may protect you.

  • When does my disability period begin?

Typically your disability begins on the day you have a baby. Your pregnancy may cause you to be unable to work. In those cases, your disability can begin before childbirth if your medical provider documents this.

  • Can a father take short-term disability for a pregnancy-related leave?

A father can not take time off after the birth of his child under short-term disability (since the father is not directly considered “disabled” from labor, birth, and pregnancy). However, under FMLA, fathers can get up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave.

Some states may provide additional benefits such as Paid Family Leave (PFL) under EDD in California. Some cities may even provide specific benefits as well. For example, in San Francisco, your employer may be required to provide supplemental compensation to you if you are receiving PFL benefits for bonding with a new child through birth, adoption, or foster care placement.

For example, a California resident can receive PFL for 8 weeks paid leave for bonding in conjunction with FMLA – so that would be 4 weeks of unpaid leave (12-8=4). Your employer may require that you exhaust your PTO/EPO first, as well.

Summary

Family planning is an exciting time for both future mothers and fathers. Financially, it may make sense that you consider short-term disability benefits and options with your employer, state, or privately. Although FMLA may protect your job and provide you with unpaid leave and you may have PTO, short-term disability may provide you with an additional source of income while you are out on leave.

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