In Alberta, if you’re injured on the job or suffer from a work-related injury, you are eligible for benefits through the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB).
But what happens if you’re unable to work due to a health or medical issue that is not work-related?
In these cases, you may need the support of a short-term disability program.
Here is what you need to know about short-term disability and how a labour union can help negotiate to include coverage as an employee benefit.
What is short-term disability?
A short-term disability benefits program provides financial and employment security. The length of coverage depends on the specific plan you have in place. It helps individuals manage finances while recovering from an illness, non-work-related injury, medical condition or disability. These programs can cover between 60-80% of your income if you are unable to work over this period.
However, not all short-term disability programs are available to all workers, as you will see.
Is Workers’ Compensation a form of short-term disability?
While they can serve similar purposes, they are different. The Workers’ Compensation Board provides benefits and support to workers injured on the job. This includes medical treatment, wage replacement, and rehab services. Short-term disability programs can often provide support if you need to take a leave from work for a medical issue not covered by WCB.
Three types of short-term disability programs.
For non-work-related illnesses or injuries, there are three different types of short-term disability benefits available to Alberta workers. These are:
1. Employer-sponsored short-term disability
Many companies provide their staff with a short-term disability plan as part of their employee benefits package. This service is usually managed by an insurance company and can differ depending on the individual policy.
2. Private short-term disability insurance
If you do not have a company benefit plan, you can personally purchase private short-term disability insurance from an insurance provider. You will be required to pay any premiums out of pocket. It can be expensive, but it will provide extra peace of mind.
3. Employment Insurance (EI) benefits
If you’re unable to work due to a medical condition or injury – and don’t have short-term disability insurance – you may qualify for Employment Insurance (EI). The federal government offers Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits to those who have contributed to the EI program.
In this instance, employees are placed on a medical leave of absence, which allows them to collect EI.
Who is eligible for short-term disability in Alberta?
To access short-term disability benefits in Alberta, workers generally need to meet specific criteria:
Typically, employees who work for an employer that is covered by the Employment Standards Code or the Canada Labour Code for federal employees are eligible for short-term disability benefits.
Unionized workers may have additional criteria outlined in their collective agreement to be eligible for these benefits.
Employees need to meet certain criteria before being eligible for benefits, referred to as a “qualifying period.” The qualifying period for short-term disability in Alberta varies depending on the policies at your workplace.
Workers must provide medical evidence, such as a doctor’s note, supporting their need for short-term disability benefits.
How do I apply for short-term disability?
Knowing how to navigate the application process will ensure a smooth and successful claim.
The first step is to notify your employer of your non-occupational illness or injury. Once your employer has been notified, you can apply for benefits through your insurance provider.
Keep in mind that each insurance provider may have different requirements for applying. Review your policy carefully and ask questions to learn more about the application process.
If you belong to a labour union, your business agent may be able to assist by ensuring all documents are properly completed and submitted on time. This is crucial for a timely decision on your claim.
What are the benefits and compensation for short-term disability?
The benefits and compensation vary depending on the collective agreement, employment policies, and insurance provider. Workers will typically receive a percentage of their regular salary as a benefit. This ensures financial stability during their recovery period.
Additionally, some agreements may include provisions for medical benefits, such as extended health coverage, prescription drug coverage, or counseling services.
Unions are often able to negotiate for a superior short-term disability plan. For example, it may provide a higher percentage of lost wages, or a shorter waiting (which can save employees from having to take paid sick days to bridge the gap).
Is my job protected while I’m on short-term disability?
Short-term disability not only provides financial support but also safeguards your job security during your recovery. Alberta’s employment standards legislation and Canada’s Labour code ensure workers on short-term disability cannot be terminated without just cause.
What role can labour unions play in protecting workers?
Short-term disability benefits are a critical lifeline for Alberta workers facing temporary health challenges. Through the efforts of labour unions, millions of employees have successfully negotiated to receive enhanced short-term disability benefits beyond the minimum requirements mandated by EI These agreements can give members extended coverage periods and greater payouts for short-term disability.
Labour unions in Alberta strive to protect their members’ rights. They help ensure their members have the time and support required to recover from their injuries and return to work when they are ready, without repercussion.
What if you’re not covered?
Accidents, injuries, illnesses and debilitating medical conditions can happen to anybody. Knowing you have coverage allows you to focus on your recovery without worrying about unnecessary stress or financial hardship… on you or your family.
If you don’t have an employer-sponsored short-term disability in place, it may be worth speaking to a union to discuss your options.
Do you have questions about other workers’ rights issues? Teamsters 987 is a leading labour union in Alberta. Their dedicated team is committed to supporting workers and advocating for their rights. Contact Teamsters 987 today to learn more about how they can assist you.