Cancer treatment can impact many areas of a person’s life, and figuring out how to mitigate that impact can often feel overwhelming and time-consuming. For instance, treatment and recovery can affect one’s ability to work and may even require taking time off. If you need to take a medical leave of absence, short-term disability (STD) might be an option to consider. STD is designed to supplement a portion of your income if your health necessitates that you take a brief break from your job.
There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to how short-term disability benefits work. Thankfully, a recent article from The Muse answers some of the most pressing questions about STD and provides a breakdown of the important details to be aware of. Below, we’ve highlighted answers to four questions that are particularly relevant for cancer survivors:
What is short-term disability? If you’re unable to work due to an illness or non-job-related injury, short-term disability insurance can provide some compensation or income replacement for a limited period of time. Note that “non-job-related” is a key factor, as injuries that happen while at work are often covered by workers’ compensation, rather than STD.
How much time off can you take off? The length of coverage you’re entitled to will depend on your STD plan (usually anywhere from 30 days to a few months). Your particular health situation will also be taken into account, since there are medical guidelines on how long recovery usually takes for a specific condition. Your employer or plan provider (whoever is providing this benefit) can use this information to determine a reasonable amount of time for you to be on leave. If you think your recovery will be a lot longer than the outlined coverage period, then you might want to look into long-term disability.
Is your job protected while you’re out? Unfortunately, STD does not offer any direct job protection (unlike the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA), which means that it’s possible you could be terminated or won’t be able to resume the exact same position when you return. However, there are employment laws, such as the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), that may provide some level of job protection. The ADA requires companies to work with an employee to figure out reasonable accommodations that would enable an individual to stay on the job. Additionally, in some instances it’s possible to use FMLA leave concurrently with STD, so that your job is protected while you continue to receive an income. Although it may not be possible in all cases, it is definitely worth exploring.
What will it be like to return to work? Heading back to work after taking time off can be a process in itself, so allow yourself the space and time for that transition. Learning how to set professional boundaries, alleviate workplace stress and navigate uncomfortable conversations with coworkers are just a few things that can help with the readjustment period.
For more insight on STD and how it might work for you, read the complete Muse article here.
If you’d like additional information regarding protections at work, check out our article on “Your Legal Rights in the Workplace.”
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