While we all do our best to stay healthy and safe, getting sick or injured can be an unfortunate reality of life. When a worker is hurt or ill and unable to work, the last thing they need is the added stress of figuring out how to get the financial support they need. Do you know the different kinds of worker benefits and disability insurance you’re entitled to? The system can sometimes be hard to navigate, so learning more about the options now can save you a headache down the road. Even if you stay healthy, understanding what each kind of insurance means can also help you, your family, co-workers, and friends if they face a difficult situation in the future.
What does it mean to go on leave?
We can all think of someone we know who has needed to take time away from work to focus on getting healthy and recovering from physical or mental injuries or illnesses. Disability insurance is a benefit that helps to cover workers from loss of income after their normal sick leave has run out. These benefits are for health issues that are not related to work – injuries that happen on the job are dealt with through the Workers’Compensation Board (WCB).
Since healing from illness and injury can take weeks, months or even years, there are several different kinds of disability benefits to cover short-term and long-term leaves. Not every workplace offers disability insurance. In Alberta, workers can access a minimum standard of government support, but employers are not required by law to cover wages while workers are on leave. This is one of the ways your Teamsters Local Union 987 fights for you, through your collective bargaining agreement.
Even within every Teamsters Local 987 Collective Agreement, each disability insurance policy is different. Your shop steward or business agent can explain specific parts of your unique collective agreement but read on to learn more about what each kind of disability insurance looks like.
Short-term disability benefits
When a worker is temporarily unable to work for health reasons, they may be able to continue earning an income through short-term disability insurance. These benefits can take effect after your regular sick days have been used up and usually last for up to six months, and in some cases, up to one year. Workers can expect to earn around 70 percent of the wages they normally make on the job while on short-term disability.
Long-term disability benefits
Long-term disability insurance benefits are for injuries and illnesses that affect someone’s ability to perform the duties of their regular job for typically more than six months but can vary depending on the provider. Long-term disability benefits are typically accessed after other benefits have been exhausted, such as:
- employer sick days
- short-term disability insurance
- federal employment insurance (EI) sickness benefits
Every long-term disability plan is different but most long-term disability plans will typically replace 60 to 70 percent of your normal income. Some plans may provide disability benefits for up to two years if you’re unable to return to the job you had before becoming disabled. After two years if you’re still unable to work at any job, you may continue to receive disability benefits, but it depends on your specific disability plan. If you are under 65 and unable to work regularly at any job due to a disability, you may also be eligible for disability benefits from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP).
In Alberta, workers are eligible for long-term illness and injury leave when they have been told by a doctor that they are unable to do the same job they had when they became disabled and have been with the same employer for at least 90 days, among other requirements. Every insurance plan and provider follow different definitions for disabilities so make sure to check with your plan provider.
How to get help
Your Teamsters 987 shop steward and business agent can support you in understanding your rights and what is best for you, if you find yourself unable to work. If you think you may be eligible, consider asking some of the following questions:
- How much of my wage does my agreement offer for short-term or long-term leave?
- How will my job be protected if I take leave?
- Have I been working long enough to be eligible?
- How else can Teamsters 987 support me if I’m unable to work?
Still have questions about what it means to go on leave or what disability benefits you may have access to? Contact your shop steward or business agent.