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June 1989, Vol. 112, No. 6
Analyzing short-term disability benefits
James N. Houff and William J. Wiatrowski
Since 1979, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employee Benefits Survey (EBS) has reported on the availability of benefit plans that replace earnings lost during periods of short-term disability. Through 1986, this annual survey was conducted on full-time workers in medium and large private-sector firms whose minimum employment ranged from 50 to 250, depending on industry. Industries covered included manufacturing; mining; construction; transportation, communications, electric, gas, and sanitary services; wholesale trade; retail trade; finance, insurance, and real estate; and selected services.1 In 1987 the survey was conducted in State and local governments,2 and in 1988 it returned to the private sector arena, for which survey findings are currently being tabulated. Regardless of year, the reports show that nearly all full-time employees of the sources surveyed have short-term protection, through either paid sick leave, paid sickness and accident insurance, or a combination of both. (See table 1.)3
All these EBS reports focused separately on the terms of sick leave and of sickness and accident insurance plans.
This article, the first to look at combined benefits from the two sources, presents new measures of the number of days of paid time off available to employees for short-term disabilities.4 By displaying the combined benefits of employees under more than one short-term disability plan, the new tabulations add to the existing data on individual sick leave and sickness and accident insurance plans. Beginning with the publication of the 1988 survey findings, the new measures will be regular features of EBS reports.
In the 1986 EBS, private-sector employees with 10 years of service had available an average of 127 days of short-term disability benefits. Since many of these days, particularly those from sickness and accident insurance plans, were paid at less than the regular rate of pay, the average number of full-pay equivalent days available was 76. The comparable averages for State and local government employees in 1987 were 47 days available and 28 full-pay equivalent days.
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1The most recent of these reports is Employee Benefits in Medium and Large Firms, 1986, Bulletin 2281, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1987.
2 Data are in Employee Benefits in State and Local Governments, 1987, Bulletin 2309, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1988.
3 For additional information on short-term disability benefits, see William J. Wiatrowski, "Employee income protection against short-term disabilities," Monthly Labor Review, February 1985, pp. 32-38.
4 Income replacement for employees disabled for longer periodsgenerally in excess of 6 months or 1 yearis often available through employer sponsored long-term disability insurance or disability provisions of defined benefit pension plans. See Diane Hill, "Employer-sponsored long-term disability insurance," Monthly Labor Review, July 1987, pp. 16-22, and Donald Bell and William Wiatrowski, "Disability benefits for employees in private pension plans," Monthly Labor Review, August 1982, pp. 36-40.
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