Can employees maintain their coverage during furloughs or temporary layoffs?
We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic may require customers to unexpectedly furlough or temporarily lay off employees. During this emergency, and provided premiums continue to be paid, we will continue to cover employees who are not currently working for their employers, under these conditions:
We will consider all furloughed employees to be on approved temporary layoff.
Furloughed employees will remain eligible for coverage for 60 days or the length of the temporary layoff provision in your contract, whichever is greater.
Accident, Individual and Health benefits:
Employees are eligible to keep their coverage as long as they pay their premiums.
If premium payroll deductions are discontinued, we will send a letter asking if the employee wants to keep the coverage and be billed directly. If the employee does not respond within 30 days, the coverage will be terminated.
Dental and Vision:
Employees on furlough or leave of absence may keep their coverage for up to a year, as long as the premiums are paid.
Will furloughed employees need to re-enroll if they return to work within the specified timeframe for the furlough or temporary layoff? What if they return after the specified timeframe?
When premiums are paid during the employee’s approved furlough or temporary layoff, employees would not need to re-enroll if they return to work within the specified timeframe.
If they return after that timeframe, they would need to re-enroll and would be subject to all plan rules. However, they would have the benefit of any re-hire provisions stated in the contract.
Rehired employees may have credit for prior service available, which credits a waiting period already satisfied while in an eligible group. All other policy provisions apply.
Group Disability: An accommodation will be made to not require the pre-existing provision for those who are rehired for the lesser of the rehire term in the policy or 6 months.
Group Life: An accommodation will be made for employees returning to their prior benefits election to not require the evidence of insurability provision for those who are rehired for the lesser of the rehire term in the policy or 6 months.
Can employees maintain their coverage while they are quarantined and unable to work?
If an employee is quarantined based on a government order, or if the quarantine is an approved leave as defined by your policy’s leave provisions, the individual will be considered “actively employed.” They would thus be eligible to maintain their coverage, provided premiums are paid.
People who self-quarantine will be considered to be actively employed for the length of time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (currently two weeks).
Can employees maintain their coverage if their work hours are reduced and fall under the minimum hours required for eligibility?
Yes. We will waive the minimum hours requirement during this emergency. Employees who are laid off or have their hours reduced should also explore state, local and federal benefits that may be available to them.
Can employees maintain their coverage if our company falls below the minimum lives requirement in our contract?
Our current process is flexible, allowing 90 days of continued coverage if your employment falls below the minimum lives requirement. To account for impacts to your business caused by COVID-19, we’re now allowing an additional 30 days to maintain your coverage.
When Unum is taking over coverage from another carrier, will employees who are on a COVID-19-related furlough or layoff at the time of the takeover be eligible for benefits?
Yes, provided they were actively at work before the furlough or layoff and the premium continues to be paid.
Are employees who are below the minimum numbers of hours required on a prior carrier’s policy eligible for benefits at takeover?
Yes, provided premium continues to be paid. We will waive the minimum hours requirement during this emergency.
What happens if my company is unable to pay premiums — for example, if we have to temporarily close the business or lay off employees?
We understand this is a challenging time for your business. We’re committed to delivering dependable service as you navigate the effect on your workforce. We also remain committed to ensuring you and your employees are supported during this time, including helping employees keep their valuable coverage. If you anticipate having any issues with being able to remit your premiums due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, please contact AskUnum at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with your Billing Coordinator. If you do not make arrangements to pay premiums, the coverage will be terminated. Termination dates will depend on the type of coverage you have:
Group Disability Insurance. Coverage will end on the day the employee is furloughed or laid off.
Dental and Vision. Coverage will end the day the employee is furloughed or laid off. If you employ more than 20 people, you’re required to offer COBRA insurance to the employee.
Voluntary benefits and Individual Disability Insurance (IDI). The coverage will end on the furlough or layoff date. Unum will mail a letter directly to the employee with options for maintaining their coverage directly with Unum.
My company is temporarily closed or operating with limited capacity. Are you going to extend your payment grace period?
We understand that COVID-19 presents a very unique challenge, and we want to help you maintain coverage for your employees. Your contract of benefits contains a premium grace period that allows coverage to continue for a period of time. Please refer to your contract to review the provisions and administration of the grace period.
As your grace period nears expiration, we will communicate with you before your coverage lapses, to work through your situation and better understand your ability to remit payment. Additionally, we are closely monitoring any state directives on premium grace periods and will update our guidelines and processes with state notices as appropriate.
If your policy does terminate, we will work closely with you through the reinstatement process.
If you would like to discuss your specific issue and request, please contact Ask Unum at email@example.com or connect with your Billing Coordinator.
I receive a paper bill and I'm unable to go to the office to retrieve it. What should I do?
If you can’t get to your office to pay your bill, we will honor the bill-payment grace period in your contract. We can help by providing an electronic copy of your bill or setting you up for online self-serve access and payment. Please contact AskUnum at firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Our company typically mails a paper check to pay premiums, but since our office is closed, we can’t do that. What options do we have ?
Unum offers ACH electronic payment for all our Group, Voluntary Benefits and Individual Disability benefits. Contact Ask Unum at 1-800-275-8686 or AskUnum@unum.com at email@example.com for further information on how to set up ACH payment for your policy.
Group benefits customers can make a one-time premium payment via phone. Please contact Ask Unum at 1-800-275-8686. For prompt processing, please have your group policy number, business checking account and routing number ready.
Do Unum’s benefits and services cover COVID-19-related claims?
Some of our benefits and services would cover COVID-19-related claims, and we will follow the provisions in our policies and service agreements to determine coverage, as we would for any other diagnosis.
Here’s a brief description of how we would approach COVID-19-related claims, assuming all other policy provisions have been met.
Short Term Disability Insurance (individual and group)
Fully insured: If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 and becomes disabled as defined in the policy, a claim for Short Term Disability benefits would likely be payable after the elimination period. Individuals who are quarantined without a diagnosis and not sick generally would not have a payable claim.
Administrative Services Only (ASO): We are continuing to administer self-insured Short Term Disability customers per their contract, and we recommend employers adhere to the initial intent of the disability plan, which is to ensure that all employees and conditions are handled consistently. View more ASO guidance below.
Long Term Disability
Fully insured: If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 and becomes disabled as defined in the policy, a claim for Long Term Disability benefits would likely be payable after the elimination period. As with Short Term Disability, individuals who are quarantined but not sick generally would not have a payable claim. Administrative Services Only (ASO): We follow the same approach we use with fully insured Long Term Disability customers.
Individual Disability Insurance (IDI)
We would likely approve a claim for IDI filed by someone with a COVID-19 diagnosis after the elimination period, if the definition of disability has been met. As with other products, individuals who are quarantined but not sick generally would not have a payable claim.
Accident Insurance does not provide benefits for the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19, except where it includes a Sickness Hospital Confinement Rider, which may provide benefits if the individual is hospitalized for a covered sickness.
Critical Illness Insurance
COVID-19 is not considered a covered condition under our Critical Illness products except where the contract includes “Infectious Disease.” In that case, the requirements specified in the contract must be met — generally that the individual must have a positive diagnosis and be confined for a minimum of 14 consecutive days.
Hospital Indemnity Insurance
Individuals who are admitted or confined to the hospital after a COVID-19 diagnosis may be eligible for benefits, provided all other provisions of the policy are met, including facility definition.
COVID-19 is a covered illness for our group and voluntary Life Insurance benefits. Benefits would be paid according to policy provisions.
Accidental Death & Dismemberment
Accidental Death & Dismemberment coverage does not apply to COVID-19.
Long-Term Care Insurance
A Long-Term Care claim filed by an individual diagnosed with COVID-19 would likely be payable if they meet the policy definition and are receiving covered services. If a claimant is quarantined and not receiving covered services, no benefits would likely be payable.
Tests for exposure to the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 illness, are not currently covered under the Wellness Benefit. Screening tests under this benefit are encouraged for prevention of disease, not diagnosis. In addition, as test kits are currently limited, we do not want to encourage unnecessary testing. We will continue to closely monitor the legislative actions around testing, which may diminish any out-of-pocket costs for coronavirus tests.
Work-life balance employee assistance program (EAP)
This service can help employees with managing anxiety about the pandemic. It can also provide guidance for management teams on issues like ensuring employee productivity or managing a remote workforce. It's included with group Long Term Disability and is available with group Life Insurance.
Worldwide emergency travel assistance
When traveling, one phone call can connect employees and their family members to medical, legal and other services 24/7, and can provide custom travel support during the pandemic. It's available with group Long Term and Short Term Disability Insurance.
How will you calculate earnings for employees who are furloughed or whose work hours are reduced due to COVID-19?
Earnings will be calculated based on the compensation the employee was earning before any COVID-19-related change in work hours, using the policy’s definition of earnings.
Is an individual who is quarantined but not sick or diagnosed with COVID-19 considered disabled?
Probably not. Generally, we do not consider quarantined workers to be disabled unless they have a medical condition that results in restrictions and limitations that satisfy a policy’s definition of disability.
Should we make any changes to our ASO Short Term Disability program?
We recommend that employers refrain from changing their existing disability plan, to ensure all employees and diagnoses (e.g., COVID-19, cancer, flu) continue to be handled consistently. Unum is administering ASO Short Term Disability per the customer’s contract, as outlined in the disability plan. There may be a few situations where a contract is amended related to COVID-19, but these will be very rare.
Based on conversations with customers and frequently asked questions, we do have some recommendations about providing additional support for employees during the pandemic:
We encourage you to provide your employees with the resources and equipment needed to work from home in order to reduce or even eliminate the need for claims.
If working from home is not feasible, your company may decide to provide pay for a period of mandated quarantine or stay-at-home order. If so, this should be handled through normal payroll practices, which will remove the need to file claims and generally result in your employees getting paid faster.
We recommend a consistent elimination period for all conditions and therefore will not waive elimination periods for confirmed COVID-19 cases. However, if employers would like to compensate their employees during that time through payroll, we will waive the earnings-loss requirement during the elimination period.
Are sick or quarantined employees entitled to FMLA protection?
Under current federal law, which is evolving in real time, quarantined employees are generally not entitled to FMLA leave unless they meet the definition of a serious health condition. However, if a serious health condition develops, FMLA might apply. Should federal leave law change, we will update this guidance accordingly.
If we are administering your leave program, we would also consider applicable state leave laws and corporate leave policies in determining whether the employee is entitled to leave.
Should we update our leave policies to address COVID-19? Is Unum administering leave any differently?
We will manage paid or unpaid corporate leave policies related to COVID-19 if the employee or family member has a serious health condition. We will not manage paid or unpaid corporate leave policies for COVID-19-related absences that are not related to a serious health condition.
Unum manages Americans with Disability Act (ADA) services for our company. What actions will you take if an employee is diagnosed with COVID-19?
If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19, ADA Services will request and evaluate medical information to determine if the severity of illness rises to the level of disability under ADA or any equivalent state laws. Individuals who are quarantined without a diagnosis and not sick generally would not be considered disabled. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has published guidance for employers on specific workplace practices and inquiries related to COVID-19.
Is Unum tracking claims and leaves related to COVID-19? If so, what trends are you seeing and how do you plan to respond?
Employers are interested in data about leaves and claims filed due to COVID-19, and our teams are using the ICD-10 codes to record these instances. We are using this data to anticipate and model our capacity as volumes increase, so we can make the decisions necessary to ensure we continue to deliver an exceptional customer experience. We are currently seeing an increased volume of claims and anticipate this number will grow as the disease spreads and state and federal legislation evolves.
We continue to monitor developments in state and federal legislation and will adjust our approach as needed. The most up-to-date information is included here.
My business has under 500 employees. How can the Paycheck Protection Program help me and my employees during this pandemic?
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, authorizes the Small Business Administration (SBA) to make up to $349 billion in loans to help small businesses pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. The loans can be used to pay for payroll costs, including benefits, and certain other costs of protecting business operations. If the funds borrowed are used for payroll costs, including benefits, the loans will be forgiven. Other provisions also apply. The application period for these loans begins April 3, 2020. Employers should apply promptly through an SBA-approved lender, as the funding is limited. For more information, see this guidance from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Will Unum administer the new Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act?
Like other paid sick leave laws, the administration of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act will not fall under Unum’s standard services.