Cancer is leading reason for long term absence from work, Unum data shows

Business Wire


Cancer is the leading reason employees stop working and take long term disability leave, according to claims submitted to Unum (UNM), the leading provider of disability insurance.

Unum analyzes claims activity each year and shares results during Disability Insurance Awareness Month in May to help foster a better understanding of the value of disability and other coverage.

“Disability insurance – often complemented by critical illness insurance – will give employees much-needed financial support as they manage through an absence from work due to injury or illness,” said Robert (Jake) Jacob of Unum. “We also work closely with employers whose employees are out on disability, helping them offer the necessary support and accommodations their employee needs to return to work in a productive and safe manner.”

Highlights from this review of 2013 data shows:

  • More than 16 percent of long term disability claims submitted to Unum in 2013 were for cancer.
  • Breast, genitourinary and digestive cancers are the three most common.
  • Cancer patients are getting older. In 2008, 16 percent of all cancer-related claims were for employees over 60 years old. In 2013, it was 20 percent.
  • The average length of time away from work has decreased by 3 percent since 2008, with breast cancer patients showing the highest return-to-work rates.

“Recovery and return to work play a particularly significant role for cancer patients,” Jacob said. “Early detection and treatment options have improved dramatically, so the focus for cancer patients is on living beyond the disease. A rewarding career, network of coworkers, and support of the employer are key motivators for recovery.”

As a director on Unum’s Health and Productivity team, Jacob helps employers support their employees through disability leave and return to work, with a particular focus on cancer survivors. A member of an advisory committee from The National Business Group on Health and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network®, Jacob contributed to the creation of an online and interactive toolkit to help address the growing impact of cancer in the workplace. Released in the fall of 2013, An Employer’s Guide to Cancer Treatment and Prevention is the first of its kind in the industry.

“Cancer remains a significant area of focus for our disability claims professionals,” Jacob said. “We recognize the importance in helping the customer – and their employer – learn to see beyond the diagnosis and to understand the important role that returning to work can play in a cancer survivor’s overall recovery.”

In addition to cancer, other leading causes of long term disability claims for Unum in 2013 were:

  • Back disorders (14.4 percent)
  • Injuries (10.1 percent)
  • Cardiovascular (9.2 percent)
  • Joint disorders (9.1 percent)

Leading causes of short term disability claims were:

  • Normal pregnancy (19.5 percent)
  • Injuries, not back (10.1 percent)
  • Pregnancy complications (8.3 percent)
  • Digestive/intestinal (7.8 percent)
  • Back (7.1 percent)

About Unum

Unum is a leading provider of financial protection benefits through the workplace. The disability insurance leader in the U.S. for 37 years, Unum’s portfolio of financial protection products also includes life, accident and critical illness, which help protect millions of working people and their families in the event of an illness or injury. In 2013, Unum paid $5.5 billion in benefits to nearly 492,000 individuals and their families.

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MC Guenther, 423-294-6108
Toll free: 866-750-8686

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