Relief may be in sight — if we stay on guard

Unum Leave and Claim Trends Report

March 9, 2021

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It's a sight for very sore eyes: Short Term Disability (STD) claims and leave requests related to COVID-19 fell sharply during February. But as we celebrate this very positive trend, experts say we must remain vigilant.

As usual, claims and requests coming into our Absence Management Center (AMC) mirrored the trend lines for new COVID-19 cases across the nation. The post-holiday surge in U.S. cases stabilized in late January and fell rapidly through most of February, by as much as 23% per week. However, during the last week of the month this decline appeared to plateau.

And that’s just what we saw here at Unum.

By February 20, COVID-19 related claims and leave requests were at some of the lowest levels we’ve seen during the pandemic. But by the end of the month the decline had slowed greatly, and leave requests had ticked slightly up.

This was true for both the total number of pandemic-related claims and leave requests and the percentage of total claims and leave requests that were related to COVID-19. 

Unum COVID-19 leave requests and Short Term Disability claims

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Source: Unum Absence Management Center data, as of March 1, 2021.

Unum COVID-19 leave requests and Short Term Disability claims as a percentage of total

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Source: Unum Absence Management Center data, as of March 1, 2021.

It’s not time to relax — yet

The fact that COVID-19 cases, deaths and claims/leave requests plummeted last month is excellent news. Experts say vaccines are making a difference, as are mask wearing, social distancing and warmer weather.

But the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stresses that we must remain on guard and continue to practice public health and safety measures. The uptick seen at the end of February may signal trouble from new variants, or from people relaxing their behaviors in the face of optimistic numbers. Time will tell, but one thing is certain: It is not yet time to let down our guard.

Accordingly, until the pandemic is over our Absence Management Center will stay alert to changes in national trends so we’re prepared to provide the highest quality service to all our customers.

About the report

The Unum Leave and Claim Trends Report offers a line of sight into leave requests and Short Term Disability claims from our extensive customer base of employers across the United States.

The report, first released in May 2020, shows volumes and the proportion of COVID-19-related claims, helping employers, consultants and brokers understand trends and benchmarks as they navigate the ever-evolving COVID-19 landscape.

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