Taking a Leave of Absence
Financially Surviving a Leave of Absence
It's possible that your seizure disorder may require you to take a leave of absence from your job--at least for a while. If you have made that decision, there are several areas you should explore so you can weather this change.
Reasonable Accommodation and Leaves
- You may be eligible for reasonable accommodation at work if you have a disability--and are qualified to perform the job. A temporary leave from work may be a type of reasonable accommodation.
- With this type of leave, you continue to be paid. However, the leave cannot create an undue burden on your employer or if another effective accommodation is available. Also, your employer isn't required to give you this leave if another effective accommodation is available.
Family and Medical Leave Act
- Depending on the number hours you have worked for your employer over the last 12 months and whether your private employer has 50 or more employees, you may qualify for the Family and Medical Leave Act. Under this act, you may be able to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for yourself or a family member because of a serious illness.
- You won't be paid during your leave, so you will need to have money set aside in savings to cover your basic expenses. While on leave, you cannot be taken off your employer's health care plan during this time. However, you must continue to pay whatever portion of the health care plan premium you have been paying.
- If you must leave work, consider using the Family and Medical Leave Act--especially if a temporary leave is not available as a reasonable accommodation. This way, you will be able to extend the length of time you are covered under your employer's health care plan for a modest cost.
- If you have this type of insurance through your employer (or you have private disability insurance) carefully read about how the policy works. Find out about the following:
- Definition of disability. How does the policy describe "disabled?" Do you fit the description?
- Monthly benefit amount. Benefits vary. If it is an employer plan, it is likely to pay a percentage of your income. (Read your benefits booklet to know how "income" is determined.) If you bought the policy, the benefit will be the amount you chose.
- Benefit period. How long will the plan pay a benefit?
- Waiting period. How long must you wait before you receive a check? (The first check will not arrive any sooner than 30 days after the end of the waiting period.)
- Residual or partial disability. Your policy may allow you to work part time and collect part of the benefit. The policy also may allow you to return to work on a part-time basis after being on disability and not lose your entire benefit. Some policies may require only a loss of income, even if you are back at work full time.
- Coordination of benefits. If your employer pays for your plan, your disability check may not always be a set percentage of your wages. The amount you receive from government or other programs is subtracted from the plan's benefit amount. If you have a private disability policy, your benefit amount may not be reduced by what you receive from government programs.
- Taxability. If you paid the premium for your disability insurance, the benefit is income tax free. If your employer paid the premium, the benefit is taxable. This may have a big impact on your cash flow.
Try to keep your health care plan in place. Though costly, keeping an employer's health care plan will give you more options than government-run health care programs. Another possibility is to look into joining a spouse's health care plan, if applicable.
The Social Security Administration has two programs that may provide a monthly income if you, or your child, are disabled: Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). To qualify for these programs, you must meet the government's very narrow definition of disability. For further information about these programs and the government's definition of disability, visit http://www.ssa.gov/disability/.