Disability Insurance Awareness Month is a good reminder for all of us about the need to educate clients and prospects about the benefits of disability insurance, especially as it pertains to income protection. For many working Americans, losing income as a result of a disability is not something they think will ever happen to them. However, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled during their working years.
Guardian’s Workplace Benefits Study also reveals that 55 percent of employees found the financial impact of their disability incident to be major or devastating. This reality, coupled with a growing need to offer financial protection products in the workplace, can be compelling reasons for brokers and benefits consultants to encourage the inclusion of disability insurance in a company’s employee benefits package.
Further compounding this is today’s candidate-driven job market, which is putting pressure on companies to rise above the competition to attract and retain talent. Benefits can serve as a key differentiator, particularly for employees favoring an employee benefits package that goes beyond the traditional. Disability insurance can round out an employer’s health care offerings and provide valuable income protection for individuals in case they become sick or injured and are unable to work. This is important, because LIMRA research reveals that 75 percent of employees say they would have trouble paying living expenses after several months if they were disabled or unable to work.
Despite disability insurance playing a critical role in rounding out an employee benefits package, only 54 percent of working Americans have it—down from 65 percent in 2017. Not surprisingly, employees are most likely to acquire the product via their employer. This presents an opportunity for brokers and benefits consultants to think about ways to engage or re-engage with clients around the topic of disability insurance. The following are some fundamentals that can help influence a client or prospect’s decision on why they should offer disability insurance.
1. Help increase employees’ financial security.
Money can be a source of stress for many working families. With high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) increasing out-of-pocket costs for workers, employees tend to rely more and more on their workplace benefits for financial security. This is where disability insurance can help bridge the financial gap by helping protect what’s most important to workers—their income. For example, new Guardian research shows that 66 percent of employees whose disability happened more than six years ago feel that they still have not completely recovered financially. However, more than half of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which means they are unprepared to go without a single paycheck should they be out on disability.
2. Offer customized solutions to increase participation.
Regardless of company size or complexity, it’s important to customize a disability insurance program that addresses your client’s needs. Educating employers about the benefits of program features, such as online enrollment, seamless payroll deduction and no medical exam requirement to enroll, make this benefit offering efficient and attractive to employees.
Additionally, companies who may not be able to provide an employer-sponsored benefit may be able to provide access via an employee-funded disability insurance product. This helps shift the cost to the employees, yet helps demonstrate an employer’s commitment to enhancing their employees’ financial security. It’s a win-win.
3. Integrate absence management.
One critical component of an effective disability management program can be the integration of absence management capabilities. As more states pass paid leave laws, more companies need help navigating the complexities of absence management. Managing absences is a demanding job for even the most sophisticated HR teams. More worrisome is that if employers mismanage absences, they leave themselves open to costly lawsuits, fines, misuse of leaves and other issues. Positive outcomes can be achieved when brokers and benefits consultants help deliver a holistic, integrated plan that includes both disability and absence management for their clients.
4. Boost employer and employee satisfaction.
Research validates that utilizing disability insurance can sway employee perceptions of employers and enhance overall employee satisfaction (71 percent versus 54 percent). Employees with disability insurance—especially if they had it at the time of their incident—are more satisfied with their employee benefits and much more likely to feel that their company cares about them.
Additionally, a positive experience with a return to work (RtW) program can go even further to bolster an employee’s perception of its employer. For example, 70 percent said they feel their company cares for them after completing a RtW program. This is notable and something to consider when speaking with carriers about a RtW program, how it’s implemented, and its success rate. There’s a lot of value for both the employer and employee in helping employees return to work through an effective RtW program.
5. Educate with effective benefits communications.
While the benefits of disability insurance may be obvious to us, research continues to show that very few employees even understand the basics of disability insurance. For example, many employees don’t understand that it is insurance to replace lost income when they are out of work, or they are under the impression that the product is more relevant for employees with “high risk” jobs, like construction. This is not true; it is important to communicate that any individual can experience an income-disrupting injury or illness.
Also important to clarify is the notion that disability insurance is not affordable. Instead, show how it can be of tremendous value for working Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Benefits communications that break down the basics of the product, uses real life examples, and avoids industry jargon can go a long way. Think about this as you prepare for enrollment season later this year.
Finally, as benefits technology increases and changing consumer expectations continue to impact the workplace, the role of the broker and benefits consultant continues to evolve. Simplicity and ease of doing business are top of mind for all of us, so doing our part to educate our clients about the pros of disability insurance and recommending a program design that fits their needs will be valuable to them. As for employees, in addition to their health and home, there is nothing more important than their ability to help protect their income. Employers considering financial protection products have a good reason to start with disability insurance.
Treg Balding is vice president of group and worksite markets distribution for The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.