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New Research Shows "Disability Divide" Between Employee and Employer Perceptions

Council for Disability Awareness study shows greater need for education and guidance about disability benefits

Portland, Maine, May 23, 2013 – Despite some common ground, there are also clear divides between employer and employee perceptions around the likelihood and impact of an income-threatening disability, according to findings released today by the Council for Disability Awareness (CDA).

Of the 553 human resources (HR) professionals surveyed in the 2013 Disability Divide: Employer Study*, 84 percent said the ability to earn an income was their employees’ most valuable financial resource, more valuable than retirement savings, homes or medical insurance. But more than half (53 percent) thought their employees “had never really thought about preparing for disability,” and only a quarter (26 percent) said their employees are “prepared to withstand a disability that causes them to lose their income.”

“The Disability Divide study identified distinct differences between employer and employee perceptions about disability,” said Barry Lundquist , president of the CDA. “Bridging this gap calls for education and advice about the risk of disability, the consequences of income loss and the importance of income protection planning.”

Other key findings from the report included:

  • Forty-eight percent of employees said they didn’t have enough information about purchasing disability insurance.
  • A majority of HR professionals (72 percent) said it was their responsibility to help employees understand their benefits but fewer (57 percent) said they should provide direction or recommendations on choosing benefits.
  • Most HR professionals surveyed (60 percent) thought their typical employee could only financially survive for three months or less without a paycheck.
  • A large majority (84 percent) of HR professionals thought that most disabled workers would return to work within six months. In comparison, 68 percent of employees said disability would keep someone out of work for a year or longer and 31 percent of employees thought a disabled employee would never return to work.
  • The surveyed HR professionals and employees both significantly underestimate the odds of a disability occurring.

“The survey shows that employees need information and guidance about disability, and they are looking to HR professionals for help,” said Lundquist. “These insights provide HR professionals with an opportunity to help employees protect their financial security by offering education about their risks and guidance with their benefit choices.”

The full report can be viewed at: www.disabilitycanhappen.org/research/employer.

*Editor’s Note: For this study, CDA conducted an online survey of 553 HR professionals who handle nonmedical employee benefits at their organization. Respondents were offered a small incentive to participate in CDA surveys. Respondents to the survey in August 2012 were all HR professionals who helped to make benefits decisions for their organizations or provided benefits information to their employees. Employee responses were from a 2010 CDA employee survey, which included 1,006 respondents between the ages of 18 and 68.

About The Council for Disability Awareness
The Council for Disability Awareness (CDA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the American public about the risk and consequences of experiencing an income-interrupting illness or injury. The CDA engages in research, communications and educational activities that provide information and helpful resources to wage earners, employers, financial advisors, consultants and others who are concerned about the personal and financial impact a disability can have on wage earners and their families.