Living with a disability is never easy. Most disability claimants need help to get the care they need when the unexpected happens.
Proper care and rehabilitation helps empower them to regain a sense of independence and make adjustments to cope with their disability. This increases the likelihood of a speedy, successful return to work and reduces the indirect costs of disability for employers and the economy.
“Momentum Corporate receives approximately 1800 lump-sum disability claims per year. Our research shows that musculoskeletal, neurological, respiratory and cancer have been the most prevalent causes of disability,” says Elna van Wyk, National Head of Disability Management and Technical Underwriting at Momentum Corporate.
Van Wyk points out that a person’s ability to earn an income is their biggest asset and should be protected through sufficient income protection and lump sum disability cover. Group insured benefits is a cost-effective way to protect employees from the potentially catastrophic financial impact of disability. For many employees, insurance cover through their employer’s group insurance arrangement is often the only insurance they will ever have.
When an employee is temporarily or permanently disabled, they also need medical treatment, rehabilitation and assistance to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments to help them get back on track. When they are unable to return to their original profession, they require a reskilling process aligned to their interests, age and ability to ensure a successful re-entry into the employment market.
By enabling employees on disability to successfully return to work, the employer reduces many of the indirect costs associated with disability. These include loss of productivity related to the employee’s absence, the recruitment and salaries of replacement workers, costs related to training and workflow disruptions and decreased customer satisfaction. Returning to work obviously also benefits the claimant as they can earn an income and become self- sufficient.
Van Wyk says that it is important that employers partner with a group insurer well-equipped to facilitate the process of successfully returning employees to the workplace. “Over the last six years, approximately 36% of Momentum Corporate’s group disability claimants have successfully returned to work. Our disability management team works closely with the employee, doctor, union and employer to ensure claimants experience integrated and effective rehabilitation and reskilling,” says van Wyk.
The work of the disability management team has yielded great results. Van Wyk shares a claimant’s story.
“Tracy (not her real name for privacy purposes) was a high-flying change management consultant who was unexpectedly diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare, inherited degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment. At 29, her life fell apart as she could not imagine competing and delivering a service if she was blind.”
“Fortunately, Tracy was protected from the financial implications of her diagnosis through her employer’s disability and income protection cover. Tracy’s employer submitted a claim as she was unable to fulfil most of her duties. The disability management team contacted her to discuss the way forward. Tracy was required to answer questions and obtain official medical reports from the specialists treating her condition.”
“Tracy was able to find a way to rebuild her life and career around her disability as she had a team to help her make the right decisions. She received treatment from an occupational therapist to help her adjust to her new life and a Disability Claims Assessor who made sure that she received the care she needed to adjust.”
“Tracy’s impairment made it difficult for her to meet the requirements of her original job. The perseverance of her disability adviser paid off as she managed to find Tracy the perfect job that made provision for her limitations and took full advantage of her skills. Tracy might have taken a detour, but she managed to return to her path to success.”
Van Wyk concludes, “Employers should contact their financial adviser to make sure that their employees have adequate lump-sum and income disability protection in place. They should also make sure that the appointed group insurer has the necessary skills to rehabilitate employees, where possible, and facilitate a successful return to work.”