What You Should Know About Maternity Leave, Short-Term Disability and the FMLA

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Are you a working mom- or dad- to be? While there are companies that voluntarily provide family-leave policies, many stick to what they are required to offer. The legal requirements vary depending on the company's size, your employment status, the state you live in (because some states have broader maternity-leave laws that override the FMLA), among other factors. So if you are expecting – or you've recently given birth or adopted – it pays to become familiar with the family-leave rights you're entitled to at your workplace. 

This can be confusing to employees and employers alike because family-leave is usually created from a variety of benefits that include sick leave, vacation, holiday time, personal days, short-term disability and unpaid FMLA time. Let's look at how it breaks down.

Before we do that though, please note that this post is geared specifically towards using Short-Term Disability (STD) and FMLA for maternity-leave. There are many other occurrences and/or illnesses that may entitle you to use your STD and FMLA benefits.

What is Short-Term Disability?

FMLA provides up to 12 weeks total of non-paid leave – and in most cases those 12 weeks run concurrently with your short-term disability benefits. In the case of maternity leave (one of the most common causes of STD), short-term disability insurance would replace part of your income for up to six - eight weeks – depending on the type of delivery. Then your remaining weeks would be covered by unpaid FMLA leave.

Your disability typically begins on the day you deliver. You may have to wait for a short period of time (called an elimination period) before you begin receiving your short-term disability benefit checks. Ask your employer or refer to your short-term disability plan to determine the length of your elimination period.

Can Sick, Vacation and Holiday Time Be Used?

Most companies allow you to use your sick, vacation, and holiday time towards your family leave. Some companies require that you use these benefits first before using any disability or unpaid time. It is important to check with your HR department to confirm the policies related to using your sick, vacation, and holiday time in relation to your family leave.

And the FMLA?

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires obligated companies to allow their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for up to one year after the birth or adoption of a child. Enacted in 1993 as a way to guarantee parents time with their new children without having to worry about losing their jobs, FMLA also requires your employer to allow you to return to your position or a similar position with the same benefits after your 12-week leave. If you are eligible for FMLA benefits, here's how it works:

  • You may need to exhaust all your vacation days, sick leave, personal days, and STD benefit and this time will be deducted from your 12-weeks of family leave
  • If you're offered a paid maternity leave, your employer may require that the time period of paid maternity leave count toward the 12-weeks allotted under the FMLA
  • FMLA lets you use your 12-week maternity leave whenever you want during the first year after your child's birth or adoption – as long as your employer agrees. So if your employer is willing, you don't have to use all 12 weeks at once – you could choose to spread them out over your child's first year by taking a few weeks at a time or by reducing your normal weekly hours. Also, keep in mind that you're entitled to use your FMLA benefits during your pregnancy (say your doctor has put you on bed rest) – it's not just reserved for after the birth of you baby.

That being said – not all new moms and dads are eligible for FMLA benefits. You would not be entitled to FMLA benefits if:

  • Your company has fewer than 50 employees within 75 miles of your workplace
  • You have worked for your current employer for fewer than 1,250 hours over the past 12 months
  • You have been employed less than 12 months with your current employer

And with THAT being said – you should still ask your employer or someone in your HR department whether your company and/or you qualify for FMLA benefits and what other maternity leave benefits you may be eligible for. Many employers are flexible and can work out an agreement with you. If you qualify for FMLA maternity leave, you'll be able to continue to collect all on-the-job benefits (including health insurance), but that may also mean that you'll have to continue making contributions to your company's plan.

Still not sure how all of this works? Our Client Service Specialists can help walk you through the process.

Comments

  • Guest
    David August 27 2015

    Hello

    I have a co worker that was working at his house on his own time and a branch came back and hit him in the eye. He has been out for several months. He is also a full time employee that meets all the requirements for FMLA. He has been on STD for more then 12 weeks and his doctor is now allowing him to return to work. The kicker is his wife is having a baby the day after he gets back to work. Would he still qualify for his baby bonding of 12 weeks
    Thank You

  • Guest
    HRi August 28 2015

    Hello David,
    Thank you for your comment. An employee is only eligible for one 12 week leave period in a defined 12 month employment period under FMLA. Below is a link to the DOL webpage, we suggest you check your state for further guidelines.
    http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

  • Guest
    SC September 12 2015

    I was diagnosed with uncontrolled gestational diabetes on 7/29 and told to not return to work while on vacation from work. When I was due to return to work on 8/5 is when my disability insurance should have started. I just received a letter from my employer stating that FMLA will run concurrent with STD. My C section is scheduled for 9/18 with 8 weeks recovery. Can I request that FMLA begin at a later point as I will need to be out for at least 16 weeks (including the time prior to delivery)?

  • Guest
    HRi September 14 2015

    Hello SC,
    The FMLA does not allow you to request your own start date. FMLA entitlement begins on your first day out of work, as well as the time when your employer notifies you of the leave being designated as FMLA. It runs concurrently with any other leave being applied such as STD, Worker's Compensation and Paid Vacation and/or Sick Leave. If you have any further questions please give us a call at 410.451.4202.

  • Guest
    Sandi September 21 2015

    We have an employee who is going out on STD for Maternity. A few weeks after she is out on STD, her eligibility for FMLA kicks in as she has not been employed the alloted time to be eligible for FMLA. When her STD (8wks in this case) is over, is she approved for an additional 4 weeks of continuous FMLA since she is only allowed a total of 12 week for maternity? Or, would her FMLA start calculating back to the first day of STD even if she wasn't eligible for FMLA at that time?

  • Guest
    HRi September 21 2015

    Hi Sandi,
    An employee needs to work at least 12 months and 1250 hours PRIOR to the leave. Therefore, the employee is not entitled to any FMLA leave.
    Please let us know if you have any further questions.

  • Guest
    Hillary September 21 2015

    To my understanding from the above questions, my FMLA starts when HR is notified. THe day I notified HR was a already a scheduled day off, of which I had a Dr.'s appointment. Shouldn't my leave begin on my first scheduled day back at work, which would have been today 9/21/14?
    Also, can I use my FMLA now with out using my STD, then use my STD when my FMLA coverage is out? Is it fair for an employer to require you use both?

  • Guest
    HRi September 21 2015

    Hi Hillary,
    Could you be more specific about your question? I am not clear about the first few sentences of your question. Typically the day you notify your employer, usually the HR Department, may not be the day your FMLA starts. Many factors contribute to the start date, i.e. pending eligibility, required paperwork and physician certifications. You mentioned leave beginning the first scheduled day back to work, which is today the 21st? When did you apply for FMLA?
    In reference to the last sentence, if you have an STD Benefit and have been approved for your disability benefits, you are covered. STD is a benefit that provides income replacement while unable to work. FMLA provides up to 12 weeks non-paid leave and runs concurrently while an individual is on STD. If your STD Claim has been approved and you are disabled you need to follow the guidelines of the coverage. Choosing between the two; STD and FMLA is typically not an option. Many factors play into the application of the coverage.

  • Guest
    kristin September 25 2015

    I have been with my current employer for less than 12 months, therefore I do not qualify for FMLA. My current employer in New York State told me that my pregnancy is going to be a pre existing condition, therefore they will deny my STD claim. I was employed in Pennsylvania during the time I became pregnant and I also had STD through them. Am I entitled to STD from my previous employer in Pennsylvania?

  • Guest
    HRi September 25 2015

    Hi Kristin,
    Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that a prior employer will allow you to use STD since you are no longer employed with them. Typically a pregnancy prior to employment, in most states, is considered a pre-existing condition, and does not qualify for STD. Although your wages may not be covered for this pregnancy, you should still continue to pay your STD premiums if you are planning on having more children, as that should qualify you for STD. I would recommend talking directly to the STD carrier for your current employer to make sure your employer is not giving you incorrect information.

  • Guest
    Melissa October 6 2015

    I used STD and FMLA in January for the birth of my daughter. I was put on bed rest by my dr yesterday for preterm labor. Am I able to use STD and FMLA while out on bedrest with this one?

  • Guest
    HRi October 6 2015

    Hi Melissa,
    Yes, if you haven't exhausted your 12 weeks of FMLA.

  • Guest
    Pixie October 7 2015

    If you are on STD is it appropriate/legal for a supervisor to call and ask whether you are returning to work and when?

  • Guest
    HRi October 7 2015

    Hi Pixie,
    Typically in these situations the employee would provide a note from their doctor with their return date on it. To answer your question, yes, it is legal for a supervisor to call and ask if and when you are returning to work.

  • Guest
    Debbie October 9 2015

    Hello,
    Thanks in advance for your insight. I am about to exhaust my 12-week FLMA and need additional time off work for postpartum reasons and am under the care/treatment of a physician. My family uses my insurance benefits and they are set to run out if I don't return at the end of the 12 weeks. Is STD an option for me? I need a few more weeks and am wondering what my options are. What are my options as we need my insurance benefits??

  • Guest
    HRi October 9 2015

    Hi Debbie,
    FMLA only guarantees your ability to keep your job for the 12 week period. Typically, STD and FMLA run concurrently, they are not consecutive. FMLA and STD do not cover the area of continuation of benefits. It would be a good idea to contact the HR department within your company to discuss your options.

  • Guest
    JJ October 19 2015

    I will be going out on FMLA in April for the birth of my child. I receive my annual leave each year in May, so next year I will get it while I am already out on FMLA and receiving short term disability. My job is telling my that I will have to exhaust all of my leave once I receive it in May, while I am already receiving STD. I have done some research and read that once I receive a payment from my job while on STD, the STD payments will stop. Is this true? Will using my leave while already on STD affect me?

  • Guest
    HRi October 19 2015

    Hi JJ,
    It depends upon how the STD plan agreement with your company is written. Generally speaking, if you receive leave pay while on STD, your STD payments may be reduced by the deductible sources of income earned while disabled. Many companies allow employees to use a portion of the leave to "supplement" the pay that STD does not cover. For instance, If an STD plan provides 60% of the weekly earnings, leave pay might be used to cover the remaining 40%. This would accomplish both protecting the STD portion and exhausting your leave as required, albeit at a slower pace. I recommend speaking with your HR Department to see if this an an option for you.

  • Guest
    Diana October 19 2015

    Hi JJ.
    I am not an expert. However, I have a friend very similar to your situation and she did not get much in her STD due to she was receiving payment from work.
    Diana

  • Guest
    Diana October 19 2015

    Hello,
    I am 6 months pregnant. I life in the state of New York. I am a little confuse on why the STD and FMLA runs together. I spoke with HR. She said that STD is to provide temporary cash benefits. However, does not protect your job. Therefore, they run the FMLA and STD together because the FMLA will protect your job up to 12 weeks.
    So, What I am confuse is the STD, should also protect you job.
    or in other words. I will to take the 6 weeks or 8 weeks of maternity leave and then take the 12 weeks of FMLA. Is this possible?

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