Silhouette of person pushing wheelchair up hill Disability insurance can round out an employer'shealth care offerings and provide valuable income protection forindividuals in case they become sick or injured and are unable towork.

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Disability Insurance Awareness Month is a good reminder for allof us about the need to educate clients and prospects about thebenefits of disability insurance, especially as it pertains toincome protection. For many working Americans,losing income as a result of a disability is not something theythink will ever happen to them. However, according to the U.S.Social Security Administration, 1 in 4 of today's 20-year-olds willbecome disabled during their working years.

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Guardian's Workplace Benefits Study also reveals that 55percent of employees found the financial impact of their disabilityincident to be major or devastating. This reality, coupled with agrowing need to offer financial protection products in theworkplace, can be compelling reasons for brokers and benefitsconsultants to encourage the inclusion of disability insurance in acompany's employee benefits package.

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Related: Disability insurance and the financial wellnessmovement

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Further compounding this is today's candidate-driven job market,which is putting pressure on companies to rise above thecompetition to attract and retain talent. Benefits can serve as akey differentiator, particularly for employees favoring an employeebenefits package that goes beyond the traditional. Disabilityinsurance can round out an employer's health care offerings andprovide valuable income protection for individuals in case theybecome sick or injured and are unable to work. This is important,because LIMRA research reveals that 75 percent of employees saythey would have trouble paying living expenses after several monthsif they were disabled or unable to work.

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Despite disability insurance playing a critical role in roundingout an employee benefits package, only 54 percent of workingAmericans have it—down from 65 percent in 2017. Not surprisingly,employees are most likely to acquire the product via theiremployer. This presents an opportunity for brokers and benefitsconsultants to think about ways to engage or re-engage with clientsaround the topic of disability insurance. The following are somefundamentals that can help influence a client or prospect'sdecision on why they should offer disability insurance.

1. Help increase employees' financial security.

Money can be a source of stress for many working families. Withhigh-deductible health plans (HDHPs) increasing out-of-pocket costsfor workers, employees tend to rely more and more on theirworkplace benefits for financial security. This is where disabilityinsurance can help bridge the financial gap by helping protectwhat's most important to workers—their income. For example, newGuardian research shows that 66 percent of employees whosedisability happened more than six years ago feel that they stillhave not completely recovered financially. However, more than halfof Americans live paycheck to paycheck, which means they areunprepared to go without a single paycheck should they be out ondisability.

2. Offer customized solutions to increase participation.

Regardless of company size or complexity, it's important tocustomize a disability insurance program that addresses yourclient's needs. Educating employers about the benefits of programfeatures, such as online enrollment, seamless payroll deduction andno medical exam requirement to enroll, make this benefit offeringefficient and attractive to employees.

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Additionally, companies who may not be able to provide anemployer-sponsored benefit may be able to provide access via anemployee-funded disability insurance product. This helps shift thecost to the employees, yet helps demonstrate an employer'scommitment to enhancing their employees' financial security. It's awin-win.

3. Integrate absence management.

One critical component of an effective disability managementprogram can be the integration of absence management capabilities.As more states pass paid leave laws, more companies need helpnavigating the complexities of absence management. Managingabsences is a demanding job for even the most sophisticated HRteams. More worrisome is that if employers mismanage absences, theyleave themselves open to costly lawsuits, fines, misuse of leavesand other issues. Positive outcomes can be achieved when brokersand benefits consultants help deliver a holistic, integrated planthat includes both disability and absence management for theirclients.

4. Boost employer and employee satisfaction.

Research validates that utilizing disability insurance can swayemployee perceptions of employers and enhance overall employeesatisfaction (71 percent versus 54 percent). Employees withdisability insurance—especially if they had it at the time of theirincident—are more satisfied with their employee benefits and muchmore likely to feel that their company cares about them.

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Additionally, a positive experience with a return to work (RtW)program can go even further to bolster an employee's perception ofits employer. For example, 70 percent said they feel their companycares for them after completing a RtW program. This is notable andsomething to consider when speaking with carriers about a RtWprogram, how it's implemented, and its success rate. There's a lotof value for both the employer and employee in helping employeesreturn 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 understandthe basics of disability insurance. For example, many employeesdon't understand that it is insurance to replace lost income whenthey are out of work, or they are under the impression that theproduct is more relevant for employees with “high risk” jobs, likeconstruction. This is not true; it is important to communicate thatany individual can experience an income-disrupting injury orillness.

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Also important to clarify is the notion that disabilityinsurance is not affordable. Instead, show how it can be oftremendous 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 longway. Think about this as you prepare for enrollment season laterthis year.

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Finally, as benefits technology increases and changing consumerexpectations continue to impact the workplace, the role of thebroker and benefits consultant continues to evolve. Simplicity andease of doing business are top of mind for all of us, so doing ourpart to educate our clients about the pros of disability insuranceand recommending a program design that fits their needs will bevaluable to them. As for employees, in addition to their health andhome, there is nothing more important than their ability to helpprotect their income. Employers considering financial protectionproducts have a good reason to start with disability insurance.

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Treg Balding is vice president of group andworksite markets distribution for The Guardian LifeInsurance Company of America.


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