Assurant Employee Benefits is building more flexible qualifying periods into its worksite short-term disability insurance policies.

Benefits payments now can begin the first day of an accident, or 8 to 31 days from the first day of sickness, according to Assurant Employee Benefits, Kansas City, Mo., a unit of Assurant Inc., New York.

The voluntary benefit plans, which will become available Jan. 1, 2009, also will offer 9 benefits duration options, ranging from 9 weeks to 52 weeks.

Another new feature, a “bridge benefit,” will pay a reduced benefit for up to 4 weeks while Assurant is conducting a pre-existing condition investigation.

The new coverages will be available on a guaranteed issue basis during open enrollment periods.

Assurant also is making an enrollment change.

Late entrants to a plan no longer will need to provide health evidence before enrollment, Assurant says.