“It won’t happen to me” – protecting your income

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The cornerstone of good financial planning is ensuring you have sufficient income to meet essential bills. For most of us, this will be covered by our earnings. But what happens when this source is cut off?

There is no guarantee that your income will keep rolling in each month and one of the most obvious threats is redundancy. This issue has certainly made headlines recently, with household names like Tesco and HSBC laying off staff, and Mothercare and Thomas Cook going into administration.

Such high-profile cases can create concerns around your own job security. But there are other issues to bear in mind. Your earnings may be seriously reduced if you suffer ill-health, forcing you to take time out of work, or reduce hours on a more permanent basis.

It’s easy to assume that this won’t happen to you, particularly if you are currently fit and healthy. But government statistics show that over 100,000 people leave the workforce each year, following a period of absence due to sickness.

What protection is in place?

If the worst happens, and you are made redundant or forced to give up work through ill-health, then there is likely to be only limited financial help from your employer and the government.

For those with at least two years continuous service, statutory redundancy pay is limited to one week’s pay for each year you’ve worked (when aged between 22 and 41), with older employees getting 1.5 weeks’ pay within capped provisions. Those who are too ill to work will receive just £94.25 statutory sick pay a week for a maximum of 28 weeks. Only those in employment are eligible for these payments, although there are benefits the self-employed can claim for relatively limited protection.

However, it is worth bearing in mind these are statutory minimums: your employer cannot pay less than this, but they may provide more. Check your employment contract for details about your rights around redundancy and the company’s policy on sick pay. Some employers will pay a higher amount (for example a fixed proportion of your income) and for longer.

Boosting protection levels

Regular saving is one way to create a financial cushion. But it’s also possible to buy insurance to help protect your income should you be unable to work through illness or injury, note that these types of insurance policies do not tend to cover redundancy.

An income protection policy can cover both physical and mental health. These policies will pay out a proportion of your salary, typically 50 to 70%, until you return to work, or the end of the term or your death. Most will include a deferral period of a set time you have to be off work before you can claim. As a rule of thumb, a longer deferral period will lower premiums.

The cost will also vary depending on the type of work you do: most insurers group jobs into different ‘classes’ of risk, so those who do a lot of driving or heavy manual work, for example, may pay more than an office-based workers. These policies differ from critical illness policies, which pay a one-off lump sum on the diagnosis on one of a specified set of serious illnesses.

For increased peace of mind in troubled times, we can help you work out what type of protection arrangements are right for you.

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