Media - Press Releases

Unum helps more people back to work, new Return to Work statement shows

10th April 2017

  • Unum has published its second annual Return to Work statement
  • 1040 people with serious health problems got back to work with Unum’s Group Income Protection Return to Work service last year, up from 1003 in 2015
  • More than half (53%) of the people Unum helped back to work had a musculoskeletal or mental health problem, the most common conditions forcing people out of work for health reasons
  • This year’s statement has a special focus on musculoskeletal problems showing a third (32%) of those who return to work using Unum’s service are in their 20s and 30s.

Employee benefit provider, Unum, has published its second annual Return to Work statement1. The new data shows that more people with serious health problems are using its Return to Work service and more successfully got back to work.

The statement summarises information on everyone with Group Income Protection from Unum who used its Return to Work Service between 1 January and 31 December 2016. 1659 people used the service, up from 1470 the previous year, and 1040 returned to work, up from 1003 in 20152.

Of those returning to work, a third (34%) had a mental health problem and almost 1 in 5 (19%) had a musculoskeletal problem. 9% had or were recovering from cancer, 6% had a problem related to their nervous system and 5% had a condition affecting their blood or circulation. 27% had one of many less common health problems.

More than a third (36%) of those using the service to return to work were under 40 years old and a similar share (34%) were over 50. 48% of those returning to work were women, despite evidence Unum published earlier this year that only 37% of those with Group Income Protection from the insurer were female3.

Improving support for people with musculoskeletal problems was identified as a top priority in a recent government Green Paper on work and health4. So this year’s statement includes a special focus on the 202 people with musculoskeletal conditions Unum helped back to work last year.

Surprisingly, 32% of those workers were under 40 years of age. 52% of those returning to work were female and 36% were aged 50 and over. Unum provided return to work support to each person for an average of 97 days.

While more people used the service this year and more got back to work, the proportion of people returning to work fell slightly from 68% in 2015. This reflected an increase in the number of people agreeing another outcome with Unum and their employer, such as a financial settlement, rather than returning to work. The proportion of people agreeing such an outcome increased from 17% in 2015 to 26% last year. Meanwhile the share of those found unable to work fell to 11%, down from 15% in 2015.

Commenting on the Statement, John Letizia, Unum’s Head of Public Affairs and CSR, said:

“Unum is helping more and more people overcome serious health problems and get back to work. That is great news for working families, employers and taxpayers.

“More than half of disabled people who are out of work have a musculoskeletal or mental health problem5. The government has made improving their employment outcomes a top priority. Two thirds of people with a musculoskeletal problem who use our rehabilitation service return to work. We also provide services and advice to help employers prevent sickness absence. For example, line managers can use our free online modules to learn how to support employees with musculoskeletal problems more effectively6.

“The statement shows once again how increasing the number of employees with Group Income Protection could prevent many from falling out of work altogether. That is why we are calling for a temporary tax incentive for employers to invest in Group Income Protection for more of the UK workforce.

“The industry, employers and the government need to take bold action to ensure everyone gets effective, early support to stay in work when they are unwell. We believe that encouraging more Group Income Protection is by far the best option on the table”.




  1. Available from
  2. The Return to Work Statement for 2015 is available from
  3. Available from
  4. Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health (2015) Improving lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper
  5. Available from
  6. In the statement, the 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 a large number of health conditions each affecting smaller numbers of people who used our Service.