Published on: June 19, 2018
Unlike most other developed countries, the United States does not have a mandatory maternity law on a national level (a handful of states do, but Florida is not one of them). While many companies have taken it upon themselves to offer some form of paid maternity leave, many others have not. So what is a new mom to do? Often, they must rely on vacation days, sick days, and personal days in order to take a brief, and paid, baby break.
Short-Term Disability for Maternity Leave
What about short-term disability? Short term disability (also known as STD) is an insurance term describing any condition that causes you to be unable to work for a short period of time, after you've used up your sick leave. In general, you may receive STD for between 9-52 weeks. Companies offering STD are required to also provide benefits for maternity leave under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). But the state of Florida does not require a company to offer STD, so if they offer no leave benefits, they do not need to offer maternity benefits. However, you can purchase an individual policy.
How Individual Short-Term Disability Works
Florida’s individual short-term disability policies are available in two formats with similar requirements. It is important to note, however, that either policy must be purchased before the need to use it arrives. Both policies will exclude conditions for at least twelve months, so even if you were to purchase a policy on the very day you learned you were expecting, the policy would not cover your pregnancy as the baby would be arriving in less than a year.
- Voluntary employer policies. Some employers offer an optional plan that is administered by a third-party insurance company. In this case, a portion of the benefit payments may be shared by the employer but it’s important to get all the details from your benefits administrator or HR department.
- Private policies. Individuals can take out their own short-term disability policy, just as they might pay for their own healthcare, life insurance or any other kind of insurance policy. There are a variety of vendors for short-term disability insurance and policies can differ greatly, so be sure to read the fine print to be sure s different, so be sure to read the fine print.
While both plans work similarly during pregnancy bed rest, workplace-based coverage is more likely to help with pregnancy complications and recovery from childbirth (complications may also make you eligible for other benefits).
Of course, even if one plans to get pregnant, there is no guarantee, and some people don’t want to pay for a policy that they may ultimately not use. And with vacation, sick, and personal days likely adding up to nothing more than 2-4 weeks, many new mothers will want additional time off. Surely, there must be another option?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Since 1993, the FMLA has provided leave for childbirth (and other family and medical situations). Workers, both women and men, are able to get as much as 12 weeks of leave a year, unpaid. And although the leave is unpaid, your job is guaranteed upon return. If the job is no longer available, your employer is required to provide a comparable position offering the same responsibilities, benefits, pay and working conditions.
It’s important to note that FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees within 75 miles of the office; the FMLA recognized that requiring small business to let people take extended leave and guarantee a position upon return could hurt them financially. In addition, you’ll be required to have worked at least 1,250 hours in the past year in order to be eligible for FMLA unpaid leave. Want to learn more about FMLA? The U.S. Department of Labor released this informative guide.
It’s always best to explore your options further by speaking with your benefits advisor, HR manager, or your insurance provider. Want to speak with a disability expert? You can always contact us here.