What are the differences between short-term and long-term disability?

Both short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) have specific nuances that apply to them.

Short-term Disability

Short-term disability kicks in immediately when an employee is injured, but there is typically a waiting period of up to seven days before it kicks in for illness. STD coverage lasts the entirety of the established short-term policy which is often under 90 days.


An employee enrolls in a short-term disability plan with an 90-day short-term policy, then gets injured. The employee is entitled to STD coverage for up to 90 days.

Long-term Disability

Long-term disability typically has a longer waiting period before it begins for both injury and illness. If LTD coverage is paired with STD coverage, the long-term disability will usually kick in when the short-term disability ends. However, for employees who are only participating in LTD coverage, the waiting period can be anywhere from 3-6 months before their coverage kicks in.


Another employee at the same company purchases both short-term and long-term disability coverage. The employee's disability period lasts beyond the 90-day short-term limit so their LTD coverage begins as soon as their 90 days of STD coverage ends.

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