Maternity leave, also known as family medical leave, is the time off taken by a parent for a birth or adoption. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles most qualifying workers to up to twelve weeks of job-protected medical leave. However, the FMLA guarantees only unpaid leave and doesn't cover those who work for small companies.
Many parents use a combination of sick leave, vacation time, unpaid leave, and short-term disability coverage during the time away from work. If you don't have the needed sick leave, vacation time, and unpaid leave necessary to cover your time away from work, short-term disability can go a long way to covering you for your lost income.
Short-Term Disability Insurance
Pregnancy, along with illness and injury, is covered by short-term disability insurance . Short-term disability is meant to cover a portion of your income during the time you're unable to work. Many states and employers offer this coverage. If your state provides short-term disability insurance, you may pay a small amount out of your paycheck to cover your share. If your employer provides it, the cost may be covered for you. But if neither your state nor employer provides short-term disability, or if you need a greater degree of coverage, you can purchase your own individual policy or additional coverage through an insurance company.
Short-term disability, whether you're covered through your state, employer, or individual plan, can pay between 50 and 100 percent of your income. The standard term length for pregnancy is six weeks. However, some insurance plans allow for a greater term if you experience complications, have a C-section delivery, or if you're unable to perform your regular or customary job duties. Other plans provide longer terms. For example, in California the state covers 55 percent of your income up to a maximum of $1,075 per week for up to four weeks before your due date and up to six weeks after delivery.
Additionally, many programs require that you be out of work for a specified period of time--often a week--before you're able to begin collecting disability benefits.
When Should I Get Coverage?
You should consider getting short-term disability insurance before you become pregnant. You may obtain short-term disability insurance during your pregnancy but the insurer may be able to decline coverage. If the insurer declines coverage it will often be because it has considered your pregnancy a pre-existing condition. While new rules in the Affordable Care Act prohibit denials of coverage for pre-existing conditions, those rules apply only to certain types of health insurance, not to disability insurance. As long as your policy, under its own terms, allows for the denial, you may be denied coverage.
If you're pregnant when searching for a short-term disability insurance plan, you should be sure to obtain a policy that covers a pre-existing pregnancy. If your state and employer offer short-term disability, you may be required to exhaust the state coverage and allow your employer's coverage to make up the difference. If you're not covered by your state or employer, or you would like greater coverage, you may purchase an individual short-term disability policy.
Get Your Disability Claim Reviewed
If you're currently pregnant or planning to have a child, you have plenty of other things to think about other than disability and insurance coverage. Insurance policies can be very confusing, with plenty of "small print" written without the end-user in mind. If you have questions about disability coverage and pregnancy, have an experienced disability attorney review your claim.