Whatever your living situation, many of us are facing unprecedented challenges – and realising that if a breadwinner in your household is unable to work (or, worse still, dies), it can have significant, long-lasting, and even catastrophic financial consequences. We know that people will be wondering whether they could've done something to protect themselves against a situation like the one we're in – or if it's possible to do so now. Some of you may already have policies in place, but be unsure about what's covered, and what's not. This guide will help.
It’s worth noting that how the pandemic affects life insurance, income protection and critical illness will depend on whether you have an existing insurance policy in place or you want to take out a new policy; what kind of scenarios you’re looking to protect against; what financial commitments or dependents you have; as well as other factors like your age, health and lifestyle. As ever, the key is to be as informed as possible about the insurance policies you already have, or the policies you plan to buy, before making any decisions.
Quick summary: How life insurance worksLife insurance is an insurance policy that pays out a lump sum if you die. It’s usually taken out to support your family’s financial needs if you died unexpectedly, especially in cases where they’re dependent on your income. Insurers take your age, health and lifestyle into consideration when underwriting your life insurance cover, so these factors affect how much it costs to be insured. Read more in our guide to life insurance.
Is coronavirus covered by life insurance?
Life insurance covers any cause of death, including pandemics – so yes, coronavirus would be covered if you already have a policy in place. This would be the case even if you’ve travelled to a known affected area, so long as you were honest and accurate about your health and lifestyle during the application process, whenever that was. Insurers can’t add exclusions to existing policies, so coronavirus would definitely be covered if you already have life insurance.
Can I take out life insurance now in case I get coronavirus?
In light of the current pandemic, you might be thinking about taking out a new life insurance policy, especially if you’ve realised your family would be financially vulnerable if something happens to the breadwinner(s). Life insurance would pay out if you died from coronavirus, but bear in mind the process of buying a new policy might take a little longer than usual at the moment. This is because some insurers are updating their underwriting process to reflect the Covid-19 situation – but also because of delays in receiving medical reports, which may be a necessary part of your application.
When applying for life insurance, you always have to answer underwriting questions about your health and lifestyle (it’s very important to answer these honestly, because inaccurate information may invalidate your policy or lead to it not paying out). Recent updates mean that if any of the following applies to you, insurers would postpone their decision to accept your application for 30 days:
- You have Covid-19 symptoms
- You are or have been self-isolating
- You’ve tested positive for Covid-19 (or been in contact with someone who has)
- You’ve travelled to a high-risk country (or been in contact with someone who has)
If you’re in a high-risk group for coronavirus (i.e. you’re over 70 or you already have an underlying health condition), this would certainly be taken into account during the underwriting process. These factors would affect how much it costs to be insured, making life insurance an expensive way to protect your financial dependents in case you died – so it might not be the right cover for you.
If you’re not in a high-risk group, now’s a good time to consider buying life insurance, especially if the current pandemic has alerted you to financial vulnerabilities in your own household. While this pandemic will no doubt fade away, we always recommend protecting your financial commitments and dependents with life insurance – because the risks are the same if you die unexpectedly, however that happens. The goods news is: if you’re young, fit and healthy, the premiums are likely to be highly affordable.
- Life insurance would pay out if you died from coronavirus
- Insurers are including coronavirus questions when underwriting new policies
- The process of getting covered will take longer during a pandemic
- Life insurance would be expensive if you’re in a high-risk group
- Life insurance would cost no more than usual if you’re in a low-risk group
Quick summary: How income protection worksIncome protection is an insurance policy that pays out if you’re unable to work for any medical reason – physical or mental, illness or injury. The idea is to protect you financially if you can’t work for a long time, giving you longer-term protection than sick pay or savings would provide. All income protection policies come with a waiting period, which is the amount of time you wait between becoming unable to work and starting to receive payments (typical insurer waiting periods are 1, 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52 weeks). Read more in our guide to income protection.
Does income protection cover me if I get coronavirus?
The coronavirus pandemic means loss of income is a very real problem for millions of people in the UK right now. Besides government support, you may be wondering whether you’re covered by your income protection (if you already have a policy) or could be covered (if you buy one now).
The fact is: income protection is unlikely to pose an immediate solution to the financial struggles being faced right now as a result of this pandemic. This is partly because income protection policies come with a waiting period; but also because the direct medical consequences of coronavirus, in the majority of cases, are unlikely to be sufficient grounds for an income protection claim. Here’s why:
- You can’t work because you have coronavirus
Income protection would only cover you if you are still medically unable to work after your waiting period. The most common waiting periods are 4 weeks or 13 weeks, and the average recovery time for coronavirus is 1-2 weeks (if your case is mild, which the majority are).Your recovery period needs to be longer than your waiting period to be able to claim, which is unlikely to be the case with coronavirus.
- You can’t work because you’re self-isolating
Most insurers are allowing claims on the basis of self-isolation, if it’s medically advised – with the exception of Cirencester Friendly, Holloway Friendly, and Shepherds Friendly – but again, it’ll only be valid if your self-isolation is longer than your waiting period. This is unlikely to be the case when the recommended self-isolation period for coronavirus is only 7-14 days.
- You can’t work because your employer has stopped operating or you're self-employed and your work has dried up
Income protection only covers you if you’re medically unable to work, so you wouldn’t be able to claim if you lost your income for this reason. If you’re in this position, government support is your best option.
Should I take out income protection in case I get coronavirus?
For the reasons outlined above, income protection is unlikely to help in the case of coronavirus. That said, if the current pandemic has highlighted that your household is financially vulnerable, then you may want to consider getting covered to protect yourself against misfortune in the future. Just remember: income protection only covers you if you’re medically unable to work, and only starts paying after the waiting period (agreed when you take out the policy) has elapsed.
Are insurers excluding coronavirus from income protection policies?
Any policies bought before 13/03/2020 will not have any coronavirus-related exclusions. Policies bought after that time might have – for instance: some friendly societies have added exclusions for self-isolation (Cirencester Friendly, Holloway Friendly, and Shepherds Friendly), even if it’s medically required. As ever, it’s very important to be aware of any policy exclusions before buying.
- Income protection will only pay out if you can’t work for medical reasons
- It will only pay out if you’re still unable to work beyond your waiting period
- It’s unlikely to help in the majority of immediate coronavirus-related scenarios
- It's best for longer-term illnesses or injuries that prevent you from being able to work
Critical illness cover
Quick summary: How critical illness cover worksCritical illness cover is an insurance policy that pays out a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with one of the illnesses or conditions listed in your policy. It’s designed to help protect you against the financial impact a serious diagnosis can have. Common claims on this kind of policy are for cancer, heart attack and stroke, but most policies also cover a range of other serious conditions. Many policies also offer additional children’s cover. Read more in our guide to critical illness cover.
Is coronavirus covered by critical illness insurance?
Coronavirus is not one of the illnesses listed in any critical illness policy – so no: you would not be covered by critical illness cover if you were diagnosed. Lots of critical illness policies are combined with life insurance, so if you’re thinking about taking out a new policy, it’d be subject to the same delays we outlined above, as some insurers are updating their underwriting process to reflect the Covid-19 situation, and the medical reports that might be needed for your application are likely to be delayed as the NHS is under strain.
- Critical illness cover will not pay out for coronavirus diagnosis
- Combined critical illness and life cover would only pay out if you died from coronavirus
- The process of getting covered will take longer during a pandemic
This guide is intended for informative purposes only and does not constitute advice.