If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to use it, and if you have, you’re just thankful it exists.

Disability insurance – it protects employees from the financial risk of losing their income if they get hurt or sick and can’t work – and it can be confusing, no matter where you live.

Recently, Cowan Insurance Group worked with our partners at Asinta, a global strategic partnership of employee health and benefit consultancies, to conduct a survey of leading international benefits providers from 16 countries to learn more about disability management practices across the globe. What we learned was that in all the countries surveyed, apart from India, most employers offer some form of supplemental disability coverage. That’s a definite value-add for employees.

International Trends

  • Canada: The government of Canada is investigating options to extend the Long-term disability (LTD) benefit after retirement or after age 65.
  • Ireland: The only country that aligns its benefits with the Consumer Price Index, ensuring benefits costs remain linked to the cost of living.
  • Germany: Employees enjoy a guaranteed right to LTD benefits
  • United Kingdom: All adults have access to state benefits if they are too sick to work, but short-term sick pay is often discretionary. That means if you’re an underperforming employee, and you get sick with a subjective illness, you may not receive any payment. On the other hand, if you’re an excellent employee with a traditional illness, you may receive some or all of your payment.
  • Australia: 48% of employers offer disability insurance in addition to superannuation (the income they receive after retirement).
  • United States: Unlike most countries, the U.S.A. doesn’t have a mandatory LTD enrolment or term of employment.
  • United Arab Emirates: If an employee gets hurt on the job, their employer will pay their regular salary for the duration of the treatment or for six months, whichever is shortest.

Short-term disability

  • Supplemental short-term disability (STD) benefits are available in all countries surveyed except India and Columbia.
  • Payments may differ based on job level and type.
  • Duration of payments ranges from 26 weeks to three years.
  • Employers cover the STD premiums everywhere except Canada and France.

Long-term Disability

  • Apart from India, all countries surveyed offer LTD benefits.
  • Benefit payments are made in a lump sum or on a regular schedule.
  • Payouts are often based on seniority or a multiple of earnings and could equal up to three years of salary.

As our research shows, the idea of disability carries different meanings in different countries. How we translate a disability management program in Australia, versus in Colombia, can vary widely and feel counter-intuitive to an employee or employee benefits manager based in Canada.

When the words are the same, but benefit expectations vary so widely, learning to ask a variety of questions upfront about local norms and rules will help better define what’s needed. Our partnership with Asinta ensures that Cowan clients have access to local expertise in over 100 countries worldwide. Regardless of where our clients are located, we have the capability to assist them with their group benefits and retirement needs.