Employee absence caused by a disability can have a significant effect on an organization’s productivity and bottom line. Tying an employer’s workforce demographics to disability trends can help you illustrate their effects, as well as offer a solution — the income and productivity protection provided by group disability coverage.

Many workers are not financially prepared to deal with a loss of a paycheck due to disability; 97 percent of workers surveyed in The Hartford 2009 Benefit Landscape Study said they would need to make lifestyle changes if they lost part of their families’ income for three to six months.

The good news is that employers can help their non-disabled workers stay healthy and their disabled workers return to an active, productive life as soon as possible. The other good news is that you can help employers understand how disability income insurance influences productivity and workers understand the value of paycheck protection and return-to-work resources.

But first, you need the numbers. You can obtain a general picture of a workforce’s overall health by reviewing prescription and medical data, as well as the results of a company’s health risk assessments. Most mid-sized and larger employers make it mandatory for employees to complete health risk assessments in order to obtain employer-sponsored benefits. The data gathered there can help identify the percentage of employees with certain risk factors.

Combine this information with disability statistics, and you can present an employer with a powerful case for including disability coverage as part of their benefits offerings. (See the chart below for some examples of coupling trends with statistics.)

As you can see, every worker faces some risk, and you can help your worksite clients understand the full effects of disability. For example, you can explain to them the “ripple effect” — how one employee’s absence may affect an entire team. In today’s economy, many companies have less capital and fewer employees available to help them address absences with temporary help or overtime.

Here are three more ideas to help you drive home the value of group DI:

  1. Suggest wellness initiatives, such as smoking cessation programs and ergonomic assessments, as tools that can prevent disabilities.
  2. Explain how disability insurance can help ensure a speedy and safe recovery. Employers and their workers may not be aware of the return-to-work component of many disability plans. Early intervention by clinical professionals is integral to returning a disabled employee to work.
  3. Stress the importance of comprehensive claims data and analysis from the disability insurer. This data allows employers to more easily make the connection between their employee population and the types of claims being reported.

You can play an important role in helping employers understand how DI can safeguard their business, and helping their employees understand how to protect both their physical fitness and their paycheck.

Robert W. Reiff is senior vice president of distribution, field service, association, and product for the Group Benefits Division of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. He can be reached at 860-843-1994 or robert.reiff@hartfordlife.com.

Trend Disability Risks

Delayed retirement: A variety of studies indicate that an increasing number of Americans plan to delay retirement and extend their careers into their 60s and 70s.

Aging Americans are at a risk of developing such diseases as cancer and osteoarthritis. Both are top causes of short and long-term disability claims.
Women in the workforce: Women have made great gains in the job market, now holding half of our nation’s 132 million jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Pregnancy is the No. 1 cause of short-term disability claims. Complicated pregnancies can result in long-term claims (longer than six months).
Smoking: Prevalence is higher among men (23.1 percent) than women (18.3 percent). Hispanics have a lower prevalence (15.8 percent) than blacks (21.3 percent) and whites (22 percent), according to 2007 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States, according to 2008 data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.