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Extended Sick Time (EST) FAQs

Basic information

What is EST?

EST is the University’s Short Term Disability benefit that provides 100% of a staff member’s hourly rate or monthly salary for an approved extended illness or injury after a seven-calendar day elimination period, for up to six months.

What is the cost of EST to me?

There is none. The University pays the full cost. 

What is considered a disability for Extended Sick Time?

You are considered disabled if you are unable to perform one or more of the essential duties of your occupation.

Things such as the birth of a child, injuries, accidents, surgeries, and serious illnesses are covered under Extended Sick Time.

How long can I receive EST benefits?

After the seven-calendar-day elimination period, the plan will pay 100 percent of your salary for up to 26 weeks (this time period includes the elimination period).

Do I have to use all my vacation and sick time before going on EST for a personal health issue?

No. Extended Sick Time will be paid for an approved absence after a seven-calendar-day elimination period. Employees can use incidental sick and vacation time during this waiting period to continue getting paid.

Eligibility

Who’s eligible?

All active benefits-eligible full-time and part-time staff including post-doctoral fellows. A 37.5 hour work week is the minimum to be considered full-time; 18.75 hours/week is the minimum to be considered benefits-eligible part-time.

Is there a pre-existing condition provision for the EST program?

No.

Does the new program affect me if I’m on Workers’ Compensation?

Staff members who are receiving Workers’ Compensation should continue to coordinate their time off work with the Office of Risk Management.  Individuals receiving Workers’ Compensation must have their time off tracked in accordance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), so those on Workers’ Compensation must also contact The Hartford to complete the FMLA paperwork.

Pre-claim

What do I do if I have a personal illness or injury that prevents me from coming to work?

Under the Absence program, staff members with a personal illness or injury that prevents the staff member from coming to work between one and five days should contact their manager and report the absence as incidental sick time.

Staff members with a personal illness or injury that prevents coming to work for more than five business days should contact The Hartford Insurance Company regarding eligibility for Extended Sick Time (EST) payments. The Hartford’s hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time, Monday through Friday, and they can be reached at 1-888-541-7283.  Please be prepared to provide your doctor’s contact information, including the doctor’s phone number.

How do I file an Extended Sick Time claim?

  • Please refer to the brochure File a Claim With Confidence.
  • The Hartford:  1-888-541-7283   Monday – Friday   8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Central Time
  • thehartfordatwork.com is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (24/7)
  • For a scheduled absence, you may call up to 30 days prior to your last day at work.
  • For an unscheduled absence, call as soon as possible.
  • You will speak with a nurse when you file your claim.

What else is required when I file a claim?

Speak with your manager or supervisor to let him or her know about your absence from work.

I have a sick family member who requires extended care. What are my options?

Staff may use their Incidental Sick Time to care for a sick family member.  Once those days have been exhausted, staff may use their personal floating holidays or accrued vacation time to cover their own personal absence or to provide care for a family member

If I want to take a personal leave, what do I do?

Personal leaves will continue to be administered by the Office of Human Resources at Northwestern University. If a staff member believes they require a personal leave, please contact the Human Resources Benefits team at 847-491-7513 or benefits@northwestern.edu to determine eligibility.

During claim

What can I expect when I am on an Extended Sick Time claim?

  • When a decision is made on your claim you will receive a phone call and a letter from The Hartford.
  • Extended Sick Time benefits will be included in your biweekly or monthly paycheck from Northwestern University.
  • Resources available to you if you want to obtain information about your claim:
    • Call and speak to a representative during regular business hours (Monday – Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. Central Time)
    • Call and use the automated voice system available 24/7
    • Go online to www.thehartfordatwork.com  available 24/7

What do I need to do if something changes during my Extended Sick Time?

  • Contact The Hartford if you need to request an extension of your claim.
  • Contact The Hartford if you are going to return to work earlier than expected.

Do vacation and service accrue while staff are out on Extended Sick Time?

Yes, provided the EST has been approved by The Hartford.

How do I continue my health and dental benefits while I’m on EST?

Staff members on EST will continue their insurance benefits, and employee premium deductions will be reflected in their paychecks as usual.

Once I am approved, how will I receive my EST benefit payments?

Benefit payment from the Hartford will be included in a regular biweekly or monthly paycheck(s).  EST will be listed as another earnings code on a paycheck.  EST will continue to be paid through the University Payroll System until the staff member is no longer disabled, or up to 26 weeks.

After claim

What appeal option do I have if my doctor’s treatment plan conflicts with The Hartford’s recommendation for my return?

This rarely occurs, but staff may appeal The Hartford’s decision, and that appeal is handled by an appeal unit at The Hartford.  If The Hartford, after two appeals, holds to their original decision, then a staff member may appeal the decision to the Office of Human Resources at Northwestern.

What if I am out intermittently for the same disability? Will I need to fulfill the elimination period each time I am out?

  • As long as these absences are related to the initial condition, occur within 90 days from the most recent return to work for a related illness, and the condition and first absence was approved by The Hartford, they are considered a recurrent disability.  This means the absence is paid as EST without having to satisfy another seven calendar day (five business days) elimination period. 
  • If the absences are not within the above time frame and do not qualify, staff may use incidental sick time (IST), personal floating holidays, or accrued vacation time to cover their absence.
  • If a staff member has exhausted the options above that allow for paid time away, the staff member may continue in an unpaid status.

Please contact the Human Resources Benefits team at benefits@northwestern.edu or 847-491-7513 if you have a question not addressed here.