What You Need to Know About Short-Term Disability for Maternity Leave

Starting or growing your family is an exciting time, but worries about money and finances are extremely common. If your company doesn’t offer paid maternity leave, you may be wondering how you can recover from childbirth and stay at home with your newborn without a steady paycheck. With short-term disability for maternity leave, you don’t need to worry – at least not as much.

Unfortunately, paid maternity leave isn’t a right in the United States. It’s up to you to ensure you’re covered when deciding to have a baby. You do have options even if your employer does not offer paid maternity leave.

Short-term disability coverage can provide you with compensation when you’re out of the office before or after childbirth. But if you are hoping to take advantage of short-term disability coverage during your maternity leave, there are a few things you need to know.

How Does Short-Term Disability Work for Maternity Leave?

While most of us wouldn’t classify pregnancy or childbirth as a “disability,” it can prevent you from fulfilling your standard work duties in the short-term. Short-term disability insurance can ensure you’re covered if you need to leave work for a brief period because of a condition, illness or even an illness of a family member.

To use short-term disability for maternity leave, you must have coverage for at least one month before you become pregnant. Under most short-term disability plans, pregnancy is considered a pre-existing condition. Attempting to get coverage after you’ve already conceived can make it difficult or more expensive to find insurance that will cover you during maternity leave.

Whether you’re thinking of starting a family immediately or not, opting-in to a short-term disability plan is a smart idea because it can cover other conditions or situations that may prevent you from going to work. If you’re thinking of having a child anytime soon, make sure you’re covered first.

Your short-term disability insurance typically covers about 2/3 of your regular pay for around 6-8 weeks, starting on the day you have your baby. If any conditions or circumstances prevent you from working before the birth, the disability period may begin before that. Every plan differs, so be sure to get the details before enrolling.

How to Get Short-Term Disability Insurance for Maternity Leave

There are a few different ways you can get short-term disability insurance. First, it may already be provided to you under your employee benefits package. Some employers choose to include short-term disability insurance to all employees, giving them each the same plan.

Your employer may provide it to you as an additional benefit you can take or leave. If you take advantage of a plan like this, your employer may split the cost of the insurance policy with you in some way. Be sure to talk with an HR manager before you conceive to ensure you’re covered.

If your employer does not offer any kind of short-term disability insurance, you can purchase your own policy. Shop around for the best plan that fits your needs and double check their policy for childbirth and maternity leave.

How Does Short-Term Disability Insurance Work With FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act states your employer must give you up to 12 weeks off after having or adopting a child. While this time is unpaid, it ensures you can return to your job once your maternity leave has finished.

In most situations, your short-term disability insurance will cover you while you’re away on FMLA leave. If you plan to take the full 12 weeks away from work under FMLA, you won’t be paid for all of them. Because your short-term disability insurance will only compensate you for 6-8 weeks after childbirth, you may still have 4-6 weeks of unpaid time before you return to work post-baby.

Receiving Short-Term Disability for Maternity Leave

When it’s time to apply to receive your benefits, the process will differ dependent on who is providing you with the insurance. If you are getting short-term disability from your employer, let them know you’d like to apply to receive benefits. They should explain the process to you. Any necessary paperwork or forms will come from your HR department.

If you filed independently, contact your insurance carrier to get details on the process. Because each insurance carrier will have different needs and requirements, follow the specific instructions your provider gives you.

Growing your family takes a lot of planning, but the most important planning comes before you even know you’re pregnant. If you’re considering having a child within the next few months or years, talk to your employer about short-term disability coverage and their maternity leave program. You’ll be thankful you did.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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