Most women don’t have disability insurance. Here’s why they need it

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More than one in four working women will experience a serious work disability at some point in their career. Yet over half of single female workers, 20-65 years old, have no disability insurance, according to new research from the Council for Disability Awareness.

Without the income protection disability insurance provides, these women may experience greater financial difficulty than those in two-income households, if they miss work due to illness, injury or pregnancy. That equates to about 32 million, unmarried women workers — 25% of today's workforce — who are underinsured for a disability, the survey finds.

"We've always known that women had higher rates of disability throughout their working careers than men, excluding pregnancy,” says Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness. “But we were surprised to see how few single women have disability insurance or other forms of income protection, or thought to get it."

See also: The advantages of auto-enrolling employees in disability insurance

The survey also found that 52% of all single, working women have no disability insurance at all. Of those who have disability insurance, only a little over half say they have enough.

The most common cause of short-term disability is pregnancy. That’s because new moms can use short-term disability coverage as paid maternity leave while they recover after the child birth. Cancer, mental health issues and back disorders are three major causes of long-term disability.

If an employee loses their income, it is critical to have financial back-up. A household with two incomes has more financial security, which is why income protection is even more important for single employees to help them remain self-sufficient, says Vidal Peoples, financial specialist at insurance company Guardian.

“One's greatest asset is the ability to get up in the morning and go to work, so nothing else works if my income stops,” Peoples says. “You need to put things in place that will allow you to sustain your lifestyle.”

See also: Joint disorders are increasing — and 4 other key disability trends

A group disability plan can help employer clients save lost workdays and costs associated with absenteeism and presenteeism. It is also beneficial for employers to use disability insurance as a way to attract and retain workers, Peoples adds.

“It's just good business to offer it as a benefit, because you want to take care of your people,” he says.

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