Arizona, like most states, has no state short-term disability program. Options such as AHCCCS (Arizona's Medicaid program) or Social Security are intended for long-term disability which will last 6 months or more. Loss of income and potential loss of employment can be a significant financial burden, but Arizona residents who will be disabled for less than 6 months have assistance options available.
If the job was a work-related injury, the worker can apply for Worker's Compensation benefits. Worker's Compensation is a no-fault program which covers an employee's medical expenses for an injury or illness which was received as a direct result of employment. This can include conditions from injuries received in an on-the-job accident regardless of who was at fault, to disabilities acquired from long-term repetitive motion activities. Worker's Compensation also provides wage reimbursement for lost time at work. In cases of permanent injury, the worker may be eligible for permanent compensation and job retraining expenses.
A worker's first option is to use accumulated sick leave or paid-time-off days. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a required benefit; however, most employers offer it as part of their compensation package. Unfortunately, in many cases the disability lasts longer than the employee's accumulated leave time. Some employers allow the use of vacation pay for sick leave and a few will create a community leave bank where other employees can donate sick leave to help a disabled co-worker.
Employer Short-Term Disability
Many employers in Arizona offer short-term disability insurance coverage as part of their benefits package. This is meant as part of a comprehensive disability program and acts as a bridge between sick leave and long-term disability insurance. The employee uses accumulated sick leave to cover the period until eligible for short-term disability benefits and then short-term disability provides compensation until long-term disability takes over. Unlike medical insurance, employers commonly don't pay a portion of disability insurance premiums; employees are responsible for the entire cost.
Family and Medical Leave Act
Congress enacted the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993 to protect the jobs of workers dealing with serious illnesses, caring for a sick family member or caring for a new child. Under this law, workers are allowed to take up to 12 weeks of leave during a 12-month period without endangering their employment. Unlike the options above, FMLA does not provide wage compensation for the employee. However it does protect the person's job, preventing the employer from firing or demoting an employee who misses work for medical reasons. When used in conjunction with the programs above, it provides an additional tool to protect worker rights.
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