Disability and absence management
What to know about the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), disability leaves and other regulations
There are a number of government regulations that help employees when they need time away from work to handle important life events and responsibilities. One of these is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These types of regulations offer benefits and help protect an employee’s job while they’re away from work. Examples can be a planned leave for pregnancy, time away to care for a loved one or an unplanned leave for medical concerns, disabilities or other reasons.
This type of leave is especially important amid COVID-19. Federal guidelines encourage people to stay home as much as possible, especially when sick or caring for an ill loved one. Information about COVID-19, including a symptom checker and a testing-site location, is available in our COVID-19 Resource Center.
What is FMLA?
FMLA is a regulation that gives eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.1 It protects their job while they’re away. It also helps them keep their health benefits in place during their leave from work.
If you’re eligible for FMLA, you’re able to take time away for the following time durations and reasons
Employees may take 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for:2
- The birth of a baby and to care for a newborn child within one year of birth
- Adoption or foster care placement of a child with the employee to allow time to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement
- Care for the employee’s spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job
- Any qualifying reason if an employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty”
Employees may take 26 weeks of leave during a single 12-month period to:
- Care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin (military caregiver leave)
What is disability insurance coverage?
If an employee gets sick or injured and can’t work, their health insurance plan may cover medical bills — but how will people replace their lost income?
Disability plans help provide paycheck protection. A well-designed benefits package that includes short-term and long-term disability coverage helps support financial confidence for employees if illnesses or injuries prevent them from working. In addition to providing employees with important financial protection, disability plans may increase cost savings and productivity for your business.
Understanding the difference between short-term and long-term disability
Plan durations can vary, with short-term disability plans often ranging from 13 to 26 weeks or more. As the name implies, long-term disability plans are designed for illnesses or injuries that take employees away from work for a longer period of time. Based on the plan design selected, long-term disability coverage may provide benefit payments for periods of 2, 3 or 5 years. The plans may also provide benefits all the way to age 65, which is the traditional retirement age.
Flexible plan designs and funding options enable employers to tailor disability plans to meet the specific needs of employees, while establishing a robust benefits package may help attract and retain talent.
Disability fast facts
- Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before age 67.3
- Only 48% of Americans say they have enough savings to cover 3 months of living expenses.4
- Almost half say they can’t pay an unexpected $400 bill without taking out a loan or needing to sell something.5
- The average long-term disability absence from work is 34.6 months.6
- The average cost of an absence is $1,685 per employee each year.7
UnitedHealthcare offers solutions to help employers manage absences
It can be complicated to manage absences like maternity and disability leaves. UnitedHealthcare offers strategic solutions to help employers, making it easier to manage absences and stay in compliance with regulations, even across the country.
More information about disability and absence management
Find news articles and resources to help you stay informed about disability leaves and absence management.
- Eligible employees are those who work for an employer with at least 50 employees; have been employed for at least 12 months; and have worked at least 1250 hours in the 12 month period before the requested leave.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Family and Medical Leave Act
- U.S. Social Security Administration. Fact Sheet. December 2017.
- Council for Disability Awareness. Disability Statistics. March 2018. Federal Reserve, Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2016 (PDF), page 26.
- Council for Disability Awareness. Disability Statistics. March 2018. Ibid.
- Council for Disability Awareness. Insure.com. The basics of long-term disability insurance. June 3, 2016.
- Worker Illness and Injury Costs U.S. Employers $225.8 Billion Annually. January 2015. ©2017 CDC Foundation.