With the United States facing record unemployment numbers in the wake of COVID-19, more people than before are searching for jobs. Contrary to the belief that Americans are content to collect unemployment, people want jobs and are desperate to find them. The issue is that there aren’t always enough suitable jobs to equip the number of people seeking them. A lot of people struggle with the fact that they might have to take less pay than had before or move to a lower-level position due to the stiff competition that they’re facing. They may feel desperate to reenter the workforce, regardless of the types of benefits they’re being offered. But it’s important that job hunters avoid becoming too desperate during the pandemic. While it may be difficult for some to live on unemployment benefits, this option may be, in the short term, wiser than simply taking any job that is offered. Job hunters still need to be selective in terms of finding a trustworthy employer that can offer the benefits that they need, perhaps chief among them is short-term disability.

Although short-term disability may be something that certain jobseekers took for granted at their former positions, it cannot be assumed that every employer is going to offer short-term disability benefits. Furthermore, some may be so eager to be employed again that they knowingly sign on to work for employers who don’t offer the types of benefits that they need. Some also don’t understand the true importance of short-term disability benefits in the wake of the pandemic. In fact, much remains unknown about short-term disability in the first place, despite the fact that its payments can actually be quite high; in California, they can potentially reach up to $5,077 a month, depending on the state of your injury and your wage. With that being said, let’s look into what it means to have short-term disability benefits and the importance of finding an employer that offers them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Is Short-Term Disability?

Once the benefits of short-term disability coverage are understood, the importance of this type of coverage becomes much clearer. In fact, it’s more important that employees have short-term disability coverage during a pandemic than it would be otherwise. Short-term disability is essentially another type of insurance, which specifically acts to replace employees’ wages if they are temporarily unable to work due to an illness, injury, or other health condition like pregnancy. Disability is actually a fairly broad term, with the Census Bureau defining disability status through six specific questions. These measure difficulty with hearing, vision, cognition, walking and climbing stairs, self-care, and of course independent living. Now, short-term disability is not meant to replace the employees’ wages in its entirety, rather replacing it at 60% to 80% of its original capacity. Depending on the specific type of coverage an employee receives, they may or may not be subjected to a weekly pay cap as well.

Some employees mistakenly believe that this type of coverage is a part of the Family and Medical Leave Act. This is because this specific act ensures that employees are guaranteed up to 12 weeks’ worth of leave due to injury, illness, or pregnancy. However, it does not guarantee the right to paid leave. With that being said, Congress did pass the Family First Coronavirus Response Act; but unfortunately, it only covers short-term illnesses and not long-term issues.

Why Do Jobseekers Need To Prioritize Short-Term Disability Benefits?

So, what makes this such a key for employees? The fact is that while a large portion of a worker’s taxes goes towards medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP at 26%, with 24% for social security, this doesn’t help them in a short-term disability crisis. Short-term disability will keep an employee’s life stable if they break a leg or become suddenly ill, which is of course a particular concern during COVID-19. Particularly if an employee works in an office or a specific workspace rather than remotely, they are at risk of catching this virus. After testing positive for the COVID-19 virus, even non-symptomatic sufferers are usually expected to quarantine for 14 days in order to prevent its spread. This is regardless of whether or not they actually become seriously sick, in which case they could be unable to work for weeks or even months. Therefore, if an employer is not willing to offer short-term disability, there are questions that should be asked by the potential employee. It’s possible that this job may not be compatible with your lifestyle.

Another possibility to consider, of course, is the employee buying their own short-term disability insurance. While they should ask their potential employer if this is allowed, it’s not necessarily the best option compared to simply having short-term disability benefits included as part of the job’s benefits package.

What Can Employees Expect If Short-Term Disability Benefits Are Offered?

Employees must understand that short-term disability benefits are not always straightforward, even if they are offered. As previously mentioned, there is usually a maximum amount of disability allowed, with most employees receiving a maximum of 52 weeks of short-term disability benefits, after which they would be classified under long-term disability. These benefits may also be subject to income tax, and there can often be a waiting period before employees receive their benefits. Of course, one of the most important factors to consider is the employers can ask for a doctor’s note. This way, they can verify whether or not the benefit request is valid.

Considering all of the requirements that come with short-term disability benefits, many employees may overlook their importance. It’s easy to think that short-term disability benefits will never be necessary. Ideally, they won’t be. However, it’s important for them to be options for employees. Short-term disability benefits can make the difference between an employee staying afloat during a crisis financially, and falling into ruin. Therefore, they should deeply consider them during their job search.