How the modern workplace has impacted on disability claimsWith the onset of the digital revolution, physical labour has made way for more sedentary work, changing the nature of disability claims. We list 10 new workplace trends that employers in the modern workplace should be aware of.Article by The MiNDSPACE team - 20 February 2019 - Read Time: 3 min
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What's changing, and what's driving the change?

The types of injuries suffered in the workplace – and who suffers them – have evolved. Increasingly, employees are required to sit at a desk for longer work days in a stressful, pressure-filled environment. As a result, the group insurance industry has seen significant changes in the number, causes and types of disability claims processed.

With this in mind, Old Mutual Corporate, through its 2017 Corporate Disability Monitor, gathered insights from key industry stakeholders, including corporates, intermediaries, reinsurers and assessors. This is what we found.

Increasingly, employees are required to sit at a desk for longer work days in a stressful, pressure-filled environment.


1. Perceptions around work dangers are changing

The percentage of respondents who feel that workplace stress, pressure at work and working too long hours are major causes of disability (10%), is almost equal to the percentage who believe dangerous industries to be the cause (13%).

2. Sitting is the new smoking

Muscular, skeletal or connective-tissue disorders were cited by 30% of intermediaries as the biggest health risks facing employees between 2017 and 2020, particularly among desk-bound office workers.

3. The economy impacts disability

Altogether, 61% of the corporates, 80% of the intermediaries and 100% of the re-insurers and assessors interviewed said that the state of the economy impacts the number of disability claims. That’s an average of 70%.

4. The types of on-the-job injuries are changing

The following five injuries and illnesses are on the rise:

  • Stress-related and/or stress-induced conditions
  • Psychological conditions
  • Muscular-skeletal injuries
  • Lifestyle-related conditions, specifically diabetes, heart problems and obesity
  • Cancer

5. Growing reasons for claims

An increase in the number of claims – seen by 66% of respondents – related to:

  • Psychological-/stress-induced illnesses
  • Cancer-related illnesses (as many as one in four disability claims are cancer-related)

At the same time, the number of claims received from high-income earners has increased.

6. Lifestyle counts more and more

A poor diet, lack of exercise, drinking, smoking, substance abuse and obesity are among the major reasons for disability claims, according to 70% of respondents.

7. Tax changes are changing disability claims

Changes to the tax laws on disability payouts have made claiming more attractive than a monthly salary to some. In fact, 27% of the respondents cited it as the reason why they are receiving more claims.

8. Mental health problems are still misunderstood

Of the 100 corporates interviewed, only 4% believe that mental-health problems could keep someone from doing their job.

9. Claims are definitely on the up

The overall number of claims received has increased and 86% of the assessors surveyed said that they have seen ‘a lot more’ claims.

10. It’s a holistic problem

Although work stress was identified as a major cause of disability claims, it ranks below general stress experienced in all areas of life (54%). Employees suffering financial, relationship, family or any other non-work-related stress will understandably battle to cope with additional pressure at work. One way employers can counter this is by taking some of the non-work-related pressure away. Forward-thinking ideas extend to setting up an in-house crèche, providing ready-made meals to take home and bursaries for employees’ children.

It’s therefore no wonder that knowing how to manage workplace stress is an increasingly hot topic in the media, around the water cooler and in boardrooms.

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