Previous Article
Next Article

Proposed Changes To Short Term Disability Policy

Print Article


Lehigh’s short term disability benefit plan (STD), as currently written, produces significantly different income protection benefit guarantees for exempt and nonexempt staff.

The current policies state that exempt staff members who experience an STD absence are eligible for full pay for a period of up to 26 weeks after their first work day while nonexempt staff  STD benefits are determined based on the staff member’s years of continuous service.  The result is that nonexempt staff members do not officially reach the same 26 weeks at full pay benefit level until they’ve worked for 20 years.

The first Benefits Allocation Review Team which met during FY2010‐11 recognized this inequity and made the following recommendation in their September 2011 report to the campus community:

“Short term disability benefits for staff: The current sick leave and short term disability plans for exempt and nonexempt staff should be replaced by plans that result in greater equity across the staff. The re‐design of these benefits should be done on a cost neutral basis.”

The responsibility for reviewing the plans and developing a revised benefit was assigned to Human Resources (HR).

Working with a small group of Employee Relations Advisory Committee (ERAC) members, the HR staff crafted a revised benefits schedule to achieve equity in the short term disability salary continuation benefits available to staff members. A new plan design was shared with ERAC on June 13, 2012 and they recommended minor modifications which have been incorporated into the proposed benefit.

The benefit described below has been endorsed by ERAC.

Revised Staff Salary Continuation Benefits

Key features of the revised policy include:

  • No short term disability salary continuation benefits are provided during the provisional period of employment (first six months). Staff members may use sick leave, floating holidays, and/or vacation benefits.

  • After six months of service and completion of the provisional period, income protection for up to twelve weeks. The level of income would be:
    • Two weeks at 100 percent pay (one week of sick leave and one week of salary continuation)    
    • Ten weeks at 60 percent pay (can be supplemented by other paid time off benefits)     

  • After one year of service, income protection for up to 26 weeks as follows:
    • Four weeks at 100 percent pay (one week of sick leave and three weeks of salary continuation)
    • Twenty-two weeks at 60 percent pay (can be supplemented by other paid time off benefits)

The number of weeks at full pay increases with each year of service until year ten. At ten years of service, all staff members have income protection at full salary for up to 26 weeks (one week of sick leave and 25 weeks of salary continuation).

In addition to the revised schedule of salary continuation benefits, the sick leave and excused absence policies for exempt and nonexempt staff will be revised.  All staff will be permitted to carry a maximum sick leave balance of 12 weeks. Currently, nonexempt staff are permitted a maximum of 16 weeks and exempt staff are capped at six weeks.

Proposed Implementation Schedule

The revised benefit schedule would be available for all nonexempt staff members and newly hired exempt staff immediately following discussion and final approval of the policy. For current exempt staff members, the policy will become effective on July 1, 2014.

More Information And Opportunities for Comment

If you are interested in deeper information about how the proposed policy compares with the current policy and the utilization rates for short term disability since 2007, you can visit the Human Resources Benefits Allocation Review webpage.

If you would like to learn more about the revised policies or want to share your comments, consider attending the upcoming Brown Bag Lunch hosted by ERAC on October 24.  Stay tuned to the Daily Announcements for the time and location.

If you prefer, you can direct questions or comments about the new policy to the Human Resources team via email at inben@lehigh or telephone at 610-758-3900.

HR News

Workplace Learning & Wellness Programs

View Full Calendar

Spotlight is published monthly by Human Resources. Please address any comments to Hillary Kwiatek, Spotlight Editor, Human Resources, 428 Brodhead Avenue, send email to, or call extension 85165.

Current and past issues of Spotlight can be viewed and searched at: Past Issues.