HR Glossary for HR Professionals

Glossary of the most common HR terms and acronyms to assist professionals navigating the ever-growing and ever-changing world of HR terminology.

Disability Leave

What Is Disability Leave?

Disability leave refers to the right to take a work leave of absence or to reasonable accommodation for employees who are substantially limited in one or more major life activities–physically or mentally.

Reasonable accommodation includes a change in workplace policies, facilities, or how work is done. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires this from employers with 15 or more employees.

The term “disability leave” sometimes loosely refers to sick leave. This means time off from work for health reasons, whether paid or unpaid, not covered under an employer’s disability policy.

Is Disability Leave the Same as FMLA?

A serious health condition under the FMLA—also known as the Family and Medical Leave Act—includes an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves incapacity or treatment.

The incapacity or treatment must require the absence of more than three calendar days from work. Additionally, it must involve continuing treatment from a health care provider.

How Long Can You Be On Disability From Work?

Under the ADA, the duration of an individual’s disability leave depends entirely on the impairment and related circumstances.

Some organizations provide disability insurance as an added benefit for employees. According to Guardian Insurance, there are two types of disability insurance policies: short-term disability and long-term disability.

  • Short-Term Disability: This type of insurance is reserved for people with temporary disabilities and can last between 3 and 6 months.
  • Long-Term Disability: This type of insurance is reserved for longer-lasting (and sometimes permanent) disabilities.

Short Term Disability Return to Work Laws

When an employee takes approved leave under the FMLA’s short-term disability provisions, they’re protected from automatic termination and return-to-work denial.

According to the DOL, employees are eligible to take FMLA leave when they’ve worked for their employer for at least 12 months and have worked for at least 1,250 hours during this period immediately prior to the requested leave if there are at least 50 employees working within 75 miles of the employee’s worksite.

Related Terms: FMLA, Short Term Disability, ADA

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