Fueled by ADA, FMLA and countless ever-changing statutory concerns, employer confusion has sparked over-generosity. Employers are giving against their will and caving in beyond necessity. While competitive offerings remain critical to attracting, engaging and retaining the right talent, benefits that reach the greatest number of top performers are most valuable. Disability benefits may or may not be integral to that mix, specific to the overall company offerings and keys to success. Disability leave, disability law and disability insurance are each distinctively different topics. Accordingly, we have taken time to debunk the myths and blueprint the actual requirements.
ADA Leave: Recent legal precedents validate that employers need not provide “indefinite leave” nor any disability leave that produces “undue hardship.” According to circumstance, four weeks beyond FMLA entitlements has been a typical benchmark for ADA leave.
Employee Paid Disability Premiums: Where the company does not pay premiums or administer benefits, such disability insurance plans may be exempt from company benefit rules. While it is unlawful to penalize employees for the allowable use of company benefits, benefits not provided by the company may be carved out. Written distinction is mandated through a well-crafted policy.
Advance Notice: Wage, hour and employment laws are quite clear that while an employer may be granted certain latitude in practice, advance notice to employees is critical to legal compliance. Burden rests upon the employer to provide clear advanced notification of policies. Again, a well-crafted proactive policy satisfies this requirement.
Benefits During Leave: The company needs not pay benefits during leave not legally mandated. In fact, the same is true during certain legally mandated leave. Employers may craft policies that stipulate leave to be employment separation. Such leave can then have its own consistently applied definition, eligibility for rehire and seniority recaptured, if so desired, upon rehire. Employees are eligible for COBRA as of the employment separation date, which becomes the qualifying event.
As with most employee handbook policies, one size does not fit all here and legal compliance can be complex. HRS is available to weigh situations on their own merit and customize policies to unique company practices.