Media - Press Releases

A third of all long-term absences caused by cancer

3rd September 2015

- Unum’s first annual claims statement reveals that cancer and mental health accounted for almost half (47%) of Income Protection claims paid in the past year

- Men are more likely to have income protection in place should they become ill (57% vs 43% of women)

- Nearly one in four claims were paid to someone aged under 40 (24%)

New data issued by financial protection specialist Unum has shown that cancer accounts for almost a third (29%) of all long term sickness claims paid in the past year. This is more than all claims paid for musculoskeletal, nervous system and heart and circulation issues combined (29% vs 24% in total respectively).1

Mental health issues were the second biggest cause of long term absences, with over one in six (18%) of all Income Protection claims paid by Unum due to conditions such as stress, anxiety or depression.

The data comes from Unum’s first annual claims statement which covered claims paid between 1 August 2014 and 31 July 2015, where employees became too unwell to work for six months or more.

The findings also shed light on the disparity between claims paid to male and female workers. Less than two fifths of the employees covered by Unum are female, despite women making up 47% of the workforce.2 Men are 1.5 times more likely to have Income Protection than women, leaving thousands of females without income protection and at risk should they fall ill and be unable to work.

While cancer and mental health issues were the main causes behind Income Protection claims over the period analysed, one in 10 claims were due to a musculoskeletal condition such as tendonitis or a back problem. Conditions associated with the nervous system, such as Multiple Sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, resulted in 7% of claims, and heart and circulation related issues also led to 7% of claims.

The percentage of people making an Income Protection claim rose, somewhat unsurprisingly, with age. However nearly one in four claims was paid to an employee under 40.

John Letizia, Head of Public Affairs at Unum, commented: “We are publishing this data for the first time to show businesses which health conditions are most likely to affect their workforce so they can put the right steps in place to support employees should they fall ill.

“We know that one in 10 people will be unable to work for six months or more due to illness at some point during their working life. Having Income Protection not only provides financial support to that employee should they need time off work, but it also supports them back into work through rehabilitation services.

“Our data shows that only two fifths of the employees covered by Unum Income Protection are female, despite women now making up almost half of the UK workforce. A key concern for us is looking at why fewer women are accessing Income Protection and what we can do with employers, brokers and as an industry to ensure employers are offering equal benefits to all staff along with equal pay.”


1The conditions are categories used by Unum to group together different health problems classified by the widely recognised International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes. The ‘other’ category covers over 100 different health problems for which Unum has had a small number of claims.