Cancer to blame for a chunk of long-term absences

Cancer now accounts for almost a third (31 per cent) of all long-term sickness claims paid, with breast and gastrointestinal cancers accounting for almost half of those claims, research finds.

After cancer, the most common conditions claimed for were mental health (19 per cent), musculoskeletal (9 per cent) and cardiovascular problems (8 per cent), according to a study by Unum.

The data comes from Unum’s second annual claims statement, which provides information on all the Income Protection claims it paid to people who became too ill to work between August 1st 2015 and July 31st 2016.

Findings from this year’s statement include a breakdown of the types of cancer Unum paid claims for. The five most common types of cancer are breast (25 per cent), gastrointestinal (23 per cent), blood and lymph system (12 per cent), nervous system (8 per cent) and respiratory tract (6 per cent). For men, gastrointestinal is the most common cancer (35 per cent), while for women it is breast cancer (47 per cent).

Around half (48 per cent) of those who made claims have an annual salary of less than £30,000 and two thirds (67 per cent) earn less than £40,000 a year.

Women are still under-protected; an issue first highlighted in last year’s statement. While women are more likely to go on long-term sick leave, they are far less likely to be covered by income protection.

More than half of cancer claims (51 per cent) and 44 per cent of all claims are made by women. However, men account for 64 per cent of those covered by group income protection.

The statement also demonstrates how older workers benefit from protection. Less than a quarter of all workers protected by Unum are aged 50 and over but they make 50 per cent of all claims and 57 per cent of cancer claims. However, 22 per cent of people claiming are under 40.

John Letizia, head of public affairs at Unum says that anyone can become too ill to work and benefit from the financial security and support services of income protection, but at a time when more and more older people and women are in work, it shows the unique value of income protection for the evolving UK workforce.

‘Women are almost one and a half times more likely to claim than men and half of our claims come from those aged 50 and over. We urge the government to look at what can be done to encourage employers to protect more of their staff.’

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