Does Short-Term Disability Pay You if You Try to Go Back Part Time

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Short-term disability covers some of your wages lost due to a qualifying illness or off-the-job injury, usually for six months to a year. You might still be eligible for benefits if you're on disability and previously worked full time, but you can now only work part time due to your disability. Factors influencing eligibility and coverage include whether the plan is state-mandated, provided voluntarily by your employer or individually purchased.

State Programs

State plans are administrated by the state disability agency and are funded by employee or employer contributions. As of 2015, the following states offer short-term disability insurance plans, with coverage lasting up to a certain number of weeks:

  • California = 52 weeks
  • Rhode Island = 30 weeks
  • New York = 26 weeks
  • New Jersey = 26 weeks
  • Hawaii = 26 weeks

If you have not exhausted your weekly benefits, you can receive coverage as a part-time employee if you meet the state's eligibility requirements_Eligibility.htm#DIEligibility). In general, you must:

  • Have a non-job related illness or injury, such as pregnancy or elective surgery
  • Be under the care of a licensed health care provider
  • Earn the minimum wage requirement
  • Undergo a wage loss stemming from your inability to work for typically seven or eight consecutive days
  • Obtain proof your ability to return to work part time from your health care provider and submit the document to the state disability agency
  • Report your part-time wages to the agency by submitting weekly claims. 

Depending on your state, the benefit may cover up to 50 to 60 percent of your regular weekly wages. To determine your benefit amount, the agency examines what you used to earn weekly on a full-time basis, then subtracts your part-time earnings. The difference is your lost wages as a result of working part time.

As a part-time employee, you must earn a certain amount of wages over a specific period, also called your base period, in order to start receiving benefits. This amount and your base period varies from state to state. In California, for example, you must make at least $300 in your base period and be earning less than what you used to earn while working full time.

The state disability program may consist of two parts: disability insurance and paid family leave. The disability part pays for lost wages resulting from non-job related sicknesses, pregnancy or childbirth. The paid family leave part covers employees who took off from work to bond with a newborn or to care for a spouse, child or close relative who is seriously ill.

Tip


  • If you're covered by federal law's Family Medical Leave Act and short-term disability, FMLA will provide you with unpaid job protection for up to 12 weeks while short-term disability replaces your income. Your employer may apply some of your available vacation or sick time to your leave period until your disability kicks in.

Voluntary Coverage

The state may allow your employer to self-insure or buy insurance through a third party company instead of going through the state program. Employers that are not required by the state to carry the insurance may do so at their discretion. Individuals who do not have employer coverage can purchase a policy on their own. All these policies generally provide benefits to part-time employees, although eligibility and coverage rules may vary.

Employer-sponsored plans typically pay up to 60 percent of your income. Your employer pays you for all hours worked on a part-time basis and provides you with extra pay to ensure that you receive no less than 60 percent of your wages. Consult with your human resources department for instructions on how to file a claim.

If you have an individual plan, check your policy to see if it includes partial benefits. If not, the insurance company may allow you purchase a partial disability rider, which typically pays 50 percent of your total disability benefit when you return to work on a part-time basis.

Tip

  • The coverage and benefits provided in an employer's voluntary plan must be equal to the state plan and superior in at least one area. For example, the voluntary plan may offer longer coverage than the state plan.

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