Against conventional wisdom, the recession didn’t spur employees toward increased short-term and long-term disability claims. On the contrary, a new study of employers from the Integrated Benefits Institute indicates that key aspects of lost-time benefits programs have remained remarkably stable.

“I expected to see one of two things: Because of the tremendous changes in the economy, I expected to see dramatic changes in disability,” says IBI President Thomas Parry. The second: That it would stay flat. “Employees are so concerned abut not having a job when they returned from disability that they sucked it up and decided not to file a claim.”

Though costs for longer leaves of absence have not gone up, Parry warns employers that they may go up if employers opt-out of the health care system.

“Employers have traditionally focused on health care costs as the big ticket item, but the real cost of health is when you bring in things like productivity and absences; health care cots can be smaller than the lost-time costs,” Parry says. “If employers bifurcate those programs, they risk exacerbating the outcomes of health.”

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