Disability Management Best Practices

Man working on his computer

Submitting a Disability Claim

What to say to an employee once an absence is reported or discovered

As soon as you're aware of your employee's absence, manager-employee contact should begin, and it should continue throughout the employee's absence. It’s not unusual for a manager to feel anxious or fearful about making the first call to the employee. Generally, the sooner you speak to the employee, the easier it will be.

Express your genuine concern for your employee's well-being, but do not discuss his/her specific diagnosis. If the employee volunteers the reason for his/her absence, you should keep this information confidential. Here are some sample questions for your initial conversation with the employee:

  1. “I’ll need to know whether to contact our workers’ compensation (risk-management) department. Without telling me the specifics of your medical condition, can you tell me if this relates to a work-related or nonwork-related illness/injury?”
    Note: If the absence is work-related, it must be reported immediately to your workers' compensation or risk-management department.
  2. "What was the first day of your absence?”
    Note: The first day out of work for illness or injury is the "first day of absence" for the disability claim.
  3. "Do you anticipate being out more than ____ days? (The number of days of the short-term disability [STD] elimination period)”

  4. "Are there any outstanding projects/tasks/assignments you were working on that need to be taken care of while you are out?”

  5. “Is there anything you would like me to tell your coworkers about your absence (without divulging the specifics of your medical condition)?”

If the absence is nonwork-related and the employee anticipates an absence of more than the number of days of the disability elimination period, instruct him/her to report the disability claim to NYL GBS.

This initial conversation may also be an opportune time to address family medical leave with the employee, depending on your company's procedures for FMLA leave. Contact your Human Resources Department for guidance, or refer to your company's FMLA policies.

Set up a schedule for regular contact (calls) with the employee during the remainder of his/her absence. Let the employee know how frequently you'll call, and follow through on your promise. It’s important for employees to feel that their communication needs are met and for them to be satisfied with how they are treated by their employers during disability absences.

You may want to suggest Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counseling to the employee if your company offers it. An EAP counselor can be a resource for the employee and members of the employee's household to help deal with disability.

When and where to submit a disability claim

A disability claim can be submitted to NYL GBS by calling the Intake Center at 888-842-4462 or filing an online claim at any time—24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For telephone claims intake, our hours of operation are 7 a.m.–7 p.m. CT, Monday–Friday.

Note: Not all customers use the same claims forms. Please check with your HR Department to make sure that you are using the appropriate form.

Information that is needed to submit a disability claim

The employee or family member should have the following information handy when completing claims forms online:

  • The health care provider's (doctor's and/or hospital's) name, address, and telephone number
  • Last day worked, or date of injury/onset of illness
  • The dates of the first, the last, and the next scheduled visit to the doctor
  • The supervisor's name, telephone number, and email address
  • The amount of money (if applicable) that the disabled employee is receiving from other sources (e.g., workers' compensation, Social Security, state disability, pension)

What to say to the employee’s coworkers

It is your responsibility as the manager to tell the employee's coworkers that the employee is absent. You may choose to tell the employee's coworkers individually, but it may be preferable and more efficient to do it in a group. That way, everyone hears the same message at the same time, which minimizes confusion.

If the anticipated duration of the absence is known, you should share this information, especially if there needs to be a redistribution of the absent employee's workload.

It is common for coworkers to express concern and be inquisitive about the reason for the employee's absence.


Personal or medical information is confidential, and even if the employee has chosen to share the reason for his/her absence with you, you should not discuss it with the employee's coworkers. It is also common for coworkers to be concerned about how this absence will affect their own schedules and workloads.

Here are some ideas for how you can manage the discussion:
"________ has called out from work and will be out on leave of absence for a while (or number of weeks if known). I do not know/I am not at liberty to discuss the reason for his/her absence. We need to discuss how we will manage the workload during __________'s absence..."

What to say to an employee who is expected to be out of work long-term

The disability claim manager will encourage the employee to make frequent contact with his or her manager. If the employee does not call you, you should initiate contact as the absent employee's manager.

Here is a sample script for that conversation:
"Hello ______, I'm just calling to check in and see how you’re doing. We miss you here at work. I also wanted to update you on what is happening in the office ..." "Do you have an idea of when you might be returning to work?"

Remember not to discuss the specifics of the employee's medical condition. Refer any questions from the employee about the status of the claim or disability benefit payment to the disability claim manager.

You can also confirm the expected return-to-work (RTW) date with the claim manager, either by phone or email.

This material and page are not intended for use with residents of New Mexico.

New York Life Group Benefit Solutions products and services are provided by Life Insurance Company of North America and New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY, subsidiaries of New York Life Insurance Company.

Life Insurance Company of North America is not licensed in New York and does not conduct insurance business in New York.