What happens when an IBM employee takes disability leave? Although there is some information regarding the process (which is accessible via the IBM intranet, i.e. the "w3") first-hand experience reveals that some subtleties of the process (and the way in which it unfolds) are not documented; one might suppose the reason for the discrepancy is a matter of exposure to the same (i.e. not that many IBM employees wind up on disability leave), though cost and evolution of business processes are probably also a factor.
Some things to note:
- During the period of wage-replacement by IBM (typically the first six months and also referred to as the "elimination period") the company issues checks just as when an employee is on the payroll full-time (i.e. taxes are deducted and statements are sent)
- Reimbursement is given for any "time-off" which has accrued when the employee's status changes to long-term disabled
- If a delay occurs between the time when an employee's short-term disability period ends and an LTD benefit date is specified the health insurance in effect is the plan which would be applicable were the employee to return to work when short-term disability is exhausted; said plan is the plan under which claims are processed until an insurance option which applies to retirees and disabled employees is elected (a grace period of thirty days is afforded for an employee to make an election choice for long-term disability coverage; the period is counted from the time short-term disability ends)
- The default health insurance option for long-term disabled employees was (as of January 2009) the IBM High Deductible PPO; other choices are available but must be elected
- Any deductible and out-of-pocket totals which have accumulated before a change in status occurs (e.g. short-term disability to long-term disability) can be carried forward but an explicit request must be made (carry-forward does not occur by default)
- Discounts and charitable deductions can still be accessed by disabled employees
- Twelve months after the elimination period ends the definition of disabled is considered to be different (i.e. the definition changes from "one cannot perform the important duties of one's regular job with IBM because of a sickness or injury" to "one cannot perform the important duties of any other gainful occupation for which one is fit by education, training, or experience")
- Requests for information from IBM HR, MetLife, and the Social Security Administration may require self-reported information for which no instructions are provided by IBM; such requests seem to only occur after the elimination period
Also, what happens when a manager initiates a separation action?
- One's badge is relinquished (a badge is required for DHL shipping discounts)
- Remote access (i.e. VPN access) to the w3 is restricted
- Voluntary separation can occur under the auspices of an Individual Separation Allowance Plan whereby some period of severance and health-insurance continuity is offered
- At Almaden Research Center the small conference room just astride the entrance (which is furnished with tables, chairs, and a phone) can serve as a forum in which one's manager and a representative from IBM HR attempt to execute IBM's involuntary separation process; attempting to call IBM HR to clarify process (e.g. with respect to pending disability paperwork) can result in security being called for assistance and the call not being completed
What happens when a separation action is attempted while short-term disability paperwork is pending?
- IBM HR may be unable to answer any questions which specifically pertain to the circumstances
- Items stored on Global Storage Architecture (GSA) space are subject to deletion and GSA's TSM retention policies (six months as of February 2008)
- One's Bluepages record may become inaccessible
- Requests for replacement badges (required for DHL shipping discounts) can be subjected to manager approval
- Requests regarding restoration of GSA-based materials can be subjected to manager approval
- ISAP agreement signatures may expire before a disability "return-to-work" date is established