The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) makes it possible for a parent to take time away from work to be at home after a birth or adoption without fear of losing their job. The FMLA grants eligible workers up to 12 weeks of valuable time to be at home, but it is without pay.
Unless you plan ahead by saving sick leave and vacation time, the time that you get at home under the FMLA can create financial hardship. One source of income may be benefits through short-term disability approved while pregnant.
There are, however, several things you should know about short-term disability and pregnancy that could affect your ability to receive benefits. As you read through the information provided here about how to get short-term disability approved through a private or employer-provided short-term insurance policy, you will also learn about state programs granting workers paid family leave under certain circumstances.
Pregnancy and the Federal Medical Leave Act
The FMLA lets you take an unpaid leave from your employment for up to 12 weeks for pregnancy or adoption. It does not, however, apply to all workers.
Unless you work for a public agency, a school, or an employer with more than 50 employees, you are not subject to the FMLA. You also must have worked for at least 1,250 hours for your employer during the 12 months preceding the taking of leave.
Some states have enacted laws granting family leave with terms that are more generous than what is offered by the FMLA. For example, the District of Columbia allows workers paid leave under the following circumstances:
The time away from work is compensated under the law with the amount payable each week based on your average weekly earnings. Other states that have enacted family leave laws include Maryland, which goes into effect in 2025, and Delaware, which becomes effective in 2026.
If you live and work in a state that does not have a version of the FMLA, speak with a disability lawyer at London Disability. Some states have laws paying short-term disability benefits for someone who cannot work because of a pregnancy or complications from it.
Short-term disability benefits for pregnancy
A potential source of income to supplement or replace earnings lost while on an unpaid family leave could be from getting short-term disability approved through a disability insurance policy that you purchased, is offered by your employer as an employment benefit, or is available through state law where you live and work. Short-term disability pays a portion of your earnings when you are unable to work because of an illness, injury or pregnancy.
States that offer short-term disability programs with benefits for pregnancy generally cover a portion of your wages. For example, the program scheduled to begin in Maryland on January 1, 2025, will pay up to $1,000 a week for up to 12 weeks.
If you have coverage through a short-term disability policy of insurance either through your employer or that you acquired on your own, it may provide benefits for disability approved while pregnant. Coverage and benefit amounts depend on the terms of the policy or employer-provided plan.
Pregnancy as a pre-existing condition
It’s important to have a short-term disability policy in place before the pregnancy. You can purchase a policy at any time, even while pregnant, but you may have a problem getting disability approved while pregnant.
A disability insurance policy is a contract between the insurer and the insured. If you have a short-term disability insurance policy that treats pregnancy as a pre-existing condition, your claim for benefits may be denied.
Insurers frequently include an exclusion for medical conditions existing prior to the date the policy was issued. Many policies extend the exclusion to conditions that existed within a year of the effective date of the policy.
Have a disability lawyer review the terms of your short-term disability coverage and explain its exclusions for pre-existing conditions. The last thing you want to do is purchase a policy during your pregnancy, take family leave relying on it to replace your earnings, and discover it contains a clause excluding benefits for pregnancy as a pre-existing condition.
Contact a disability lawyer at London Disability
Pregnancy is not a disability, but complications that prevent you from working may qualify for disability benefits. If your application to have short-term disability approved while pregnant was denied, you have the right to appeal the decision. The process for appealing a denial of benefits depends whether you have an employer-sponsored plan, an insurance policy that you purchased, or a state-funded program.
A disability lawyer at London Disability has the knowledge and experience to help. Contact us today for a free consultation.