No matter what course your breast cancer treatment takes, there is a good chance you will be taking time off work. Not only are finances a concern, but job security and discrimination are issues that many of us have to contend with.
If you do plan to take time off work, here are some things to consider.
The Family Medical Leave Act went into effect in 1993. It provides benefits to employees of organizations who employ 50 or more workers. Some of these benefits include:
• Twelve weeks leave within a one-year period
• Time off need not be taken all at once
• Time off can be taken in weeks, days, or even hours
• Time off can also be used to design a shortened work week
• You cannot lose your job because of absence from work
• You do not need to disclose the nature of your illness to your employer
• You may be required to provide a doctor’s certificate, however
• Time off is not paid time off
While the Family Medical Leave Act does not provide for paid leave, you may be enrolled in a disability benefits program through your employer which will compensate you for some or all of your time off. If you have enrolled in a private disability insurance plan, this may compensate you for your time off as well.
Additionally, five states (Rhode Island, California, Hawaii, New York, and New Jersey), as well as Puerto Rico, offer disability insurance through a fund that workers automatically pay into. If you live in one of these five states or Puerto Rico, check with the Insurance Commissioner’s office for further details. Private and state disability insurance programs rarely cover your entire salary, but they can certainly help when you are required to take time off from work.
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits may also be available to you if you have paid Social Security taxes. Your payment of Social Security taxes usually appears on your paystub under FICA. Regulations for receiving payments are strict; you must have a serious physical or mental impairment that will prevent you from performing your regular job duties for at least a year. Social Security benefits do not cover short-term disabilities or partial disabilities. Your disability must prevent you from working for a year or more, and both your personal physician and the Social Security Administration’s doctors must agree that you will be unable to perform your regular duties at work.
Many social service agencies also provide short-term financial assistance to help you get through the hard times of cancer treatment and therapy. We’ll look at some of these agencies in future articles.