A majority of employees (90%) recognize the importance of group disability insurance and believe their employer should offer it, according to a recent Unum survey — but most (52%) do not understand this coverage. Not only does this present an opportunity for brokers to build their trusted adviser status with employers, it also has great potential to lead to more sales of the product. Because, despite their lack of knowledge about employer-provided disability insurance, 88% of employees surveyed think it is personally important to be covered.

This lack of knowledge is evident in that employees are far more likely to believe that injuries (66%), rather than illnesses (34%), cause the majority of disabilities that keep employees from work for at least three months. When in reality Unum reports that 15% of leading causes of long-term disability claims are from cancer.

 “The kinds of circumstances that affect nearly all of us, whether directly or indirectly, are the most common causes of absence from work,” says Diane Garofalo, SVP of the Benefits Center at Unum. “Most people believe that injuries and work-related events drive disability, but the truth is far different.”

According to the Council for Disability Awareness, 90% of all disability claims paid are for common illnesses and health conditions. In 2011, injuries prompted 10% of Unum’s long-term disability claims and 11% of short-term disability claims.

In 2011, Unum’s leading causes of long term disability claims were:

• Cancer (15%)

• Back disorders (excluding injury) (14.6%)

• Injuries (10.4%)

• Behavioral health issues (10.1%)

• Circulatory system disorders (9.3%)

• Joint disorders (8.5%)

The leading causes of short-term disability were:

• Normal pregnancy (18.9%)

• Injuries (10.9%)

• Complications from pregnancy (8.8%)

• Digestive disorders (8%)

• Back disorders (7%)

• Cancer (6.6%)

“A disabling illness or injury can cause real financial hardship for many individuals and their families, and disability insurance creates a backstop against significant income loss during the period of absence, recovery and return to work,” says Thomas R. Watjen, president and CEO of Unum.

The Consumer Federation of America and Unum conducted the survey of nearly 1,200 employees.

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