Workplace safety has evolved over the years, and great strides have been made to foster improvements with noticeable results. In fact, OHSA reports workplace fatality rates have declined more than 66 percent and occupational injury, and illness rates have declined 67 percent since 1970. However, on-the-job accidents are still common and can result in debilitating circumstances for workers.

According to estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported more than three million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2013. More than half of that number involved injuries requiring employees to miss days at work, perform restricted work activities or transfer to another job.

Not only can a serious illness or injury be devastating to workers from a medical standpoint, but its financial impact also can be staggering. High medical costs, out-of-pockets expenses and a loss or reduction in pay due to the absence of work are all potential results of a serious illness or injury. At the same time, an injured worker still incurs everyday living expenses that must be paid, such as mortgages, car payments, groceries and other bills.

The 2015 Aflac WorkForces Report revealed that employees are not financially prepared to cover unplanned medical costs.
  • 67 percent would not be able to adjust to the large financial costs associated with serious injuries or illnesses.
  • 52 percent have less than $1,000 to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with unexpected serious illnesses or accidents.
  • 44 percent would have to use a credit card or borrow from a 401(k) or other retirement account to cover unexpected medical costs.
  • 40 percent are not at all prepared to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with an unexpected serious illness or accident.
A Potential Solution: Voluntary Insurance
Given that many families have less than $1,000 set aside for emergencies such as unexpectedly getting hurt on and off the job, companies should consider the benefits of critical illness, accident and hospital indemnity plans.

Although most Americans have access to major medical insurance, whether through workplace plans or the health care marketplace, many are discovering that this insurance is merely a foundation that is more effective when supplemented by voluntary insurance. Voluntary plans work hand in hand with major medical to reduce the costs major medical was never intended to cover, offering a safety net to help protect employees’ finances when the unexpected happens. The cash benefits employees can receive from voluntary insurance plans can be used to assist with unexpected health care costs or to cover the day-to-day expenses that continue to accrue.

The number of businesses making voluntary coverage available to workers is increasing dramatically. Thirty-nine percent of companies participating in the Aflac survey offered voluntary options in 2014, up from 26 percent in 2012. And employees are responding favorably to the notion of adding voluntary choices to their benefits plans. In fact, 64 percent of survey participants see a growing need for voluntary insurance for numerous reasons, including: 
  • rising medical costs (68 percent);
  • rising medical insurance costs (64 percent);
  • increasing deductibles and copayments (56 percent);
  • changes resulting from health care reform (47 percent); and
  • reduced benefits or coverage from their employers (29 percent).
The addition of voluntary products to companies’ benefits offerings is a win for both workers and employers. Employees can supplement their major medical coverage with the voluntary choices that meet their family’s unique needs and budgets—and because premiums are paid by employees who elect to enroll, adding voluntary options doesn’t affect a company’s bottom line.

Voluntary insurance could play an important role in financial planning if an accident occurs. By paying cash benefits directly to policyholders, unless otherwise assigned, voluntary insurance allows the opportunity for employees to focus on recovery, not financial stress.

Andrew Glaub is senior vice president/director of U.S. sales for Aflac. For more information, email