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The Committee on Personnel Benefits and the Division of Human Resources believe the revised short-term disability policy will benefit both mothers and those with sudden medical issues. 

Credit: Sophia Lee

For Penn employees, taking a maternity leave quite often means not being able to take off any more days after returning to work, even if their child is sick.

This is due to restrictions in the current short-term disability policy that applies to employees when they go on maternity leave. But this is about to change. 

The Committee on Personnel Benefits and the Division of Human Resources have recently revised the policy, which will be effective July 1. The new policy only requires an employee to use up 10 days of their sick leave or vacation time before being able to switch to a short-term disability leave. In addition, an employee will quickly become eligible for full coverage, without needing to save up sick days.

Reed Shuldiner has been the chair of the committee for two years, and he says that there has been a high demand for changes in the policy for a while.

“My understanding when I started chairing the committee is this is something that was being brought up as a regular problem,” Shuldiner said. “It was a common occurrence that people would go out, and they would come back and have nothing.”

The short-term disability leave covers not only maternity leave, but also any other sort medical treatment that requires an employee to be out of work for over 10 days.

Shuldiner cites two weaknesses with the current short-term disability policy. The first concerns the requirement for employees to use up all of their sick days and half of their vacation days before using the short-term disability, which he believes is particularly a problem for new mothers.

“If you are out on maternity leave you’d come back and you’d have no leave left even if you have a sick child or something, which frequently happens,” Shuldiner said. “That seems to be a real problem.”

The other weakness with the old policy that Shuldiner referenced was the requirement that an employee must save up a bank of sick days to use for their short-term disability leave.

“If you had a more serious problem, if you hadn’t been at the University long enough or you didn’t have a big enough of a bank, you would have a period with no coverage at all,” Shuldiner said.

The new policy will hopefully solve both of these problems.

“This was not done to save money,” Shuldiner said. “In fact, overall, the evidence we saw was that this would cost the University more. But we thought this was a reasonable cost with what we thought were substantially better benefits.”

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