Losing your income for any reason is stressful. Most of us base our regular outgoings on our regular income, so any disruption to that can cause financial hardship in your household. And if you can't work for a long time, the consequences could be significant and long-lasting.

But if you’re buying insurance to protect yourself against this scenario, it’s important to understand what product is right for you, and what you will and won’t be covered for. When it comes to income protection, you’re only covered if you lose your income for a medical reason, and you’ve been signed off work by a health professional.


What does income protection cover?

Income protection covers loss of income for any medical reason. To make a valid claim on your policy, you need to:

  • Be unable to work for a medical reason
  • Be signed off work by a health professional
  • Meet your insurer’s definition of incapacity

The key thing to remember about income protection is that it really does cover you for any medical reason that leaves you unable to work. This makes it different to something like critical illness cover, another type of insurance that protects you against illness, but only covers you for a specified list of illnesses. You can make a claim on your income protection if you’ve been signed off work for any health issue, whatever the cause – but the most common reasons for people claiming on their policy tends to be:

  • Musculoskeletal illnesses, injuries or conditions – like broken bones or back pain
  • Mental health conditions – like stress, anxiety or depression
  • Serious illnesses – like heart attacks or cancer

Read more about when income protection does (and doesn't) pay out.


What doesn’t income protection cover?

Income protection only covers loss of income for medical reasons. This means:

  • You won’t be able to claim for redundancy
  • You won’t be able to claim for resignation
  • You won’t be able to claim for unemployment

What’s the point of income protection?

The point is to protect yourself against long-term periods of ill health or injury that leave you unable to work. ‘Long-term’ means anything beyond what you could cope with financially on your own, using sick pay or savings. It’s to cushion you against anything longer than that.

We have a habit of thinking it won’t happen to us, but long-term periods of illness or injury could happen to any of us. It might even happen multiple times during our working lives. The most common reasons for claiming on an income protection policy are for things like back pain, broken bones, stress, depression, or cancer.

If your health stops you from being able to earn, the financial repercussions can mount up quickly. Just one period of income loss can set you back and have long-lasting consequences. And the fact is: you can’t control what happens to your health. If you’re made redundant, you can try to find another job. If you can’t work for health reasons, you have less control over when you’ll be fit enough to return to work. That’s why income protection is an important kind of cover to have in place if you value financial peace of mind.


What if I want redundancy or unemployment cover?

If you’re looking to protect yourself against redundancy or any other kind of unemployment, income protection isn’t the right insurance to buy. It only covers you if you can’t work because of an illness or injury. Some insurers do offer products that cover both sickness and redundancy – usually called accident, sickness and unemployment insurance (ASU).


  • Income protection doesn't cover redundancy or resignation
  • Income protection only covers loss of income caused by a medical reason
  • You can claim for any medical reason, so long as you've been signed off work by a health professional
  • To protect against redundancy, you'd need to buy a different kind of insurance
What is income protection?
An insurance policy that pays a monthly amount if you can't work for any medical reason. It's designed to replace part of your missing income, so you'll always be able to cover the essentials, even if lose your income because of an illness or injury.
What does income protection cover?
Income protection covers you if you're unable to work for medical reasons. This includes any illness or injury, physical or mental, that leads to you being signed off work by a medical professional.
What doesn't income protection cover?
Income protection won't cover you if you're not working for anything other than a medical reason – like redundancy. You won't be able to claim on your income protection unless you're signed off work by a medical professional.
How much does income protection cost?
The cost of cover is different per person because it depends on how much cover you buy, how quickly you'd need the policy to start paying out, and how much of a risk you are to insure (based on your age, health and lifestyle).
Will my income protection pay out?
Yes, if you meet what's known as your insurer's 'definition of incapacity' – in other words, you meet their criteria for being unable to work. This definition is based, among other things, on the job you do, and you can read it before buying the policy.

This post is intended for informative purposes only and does not constitute advice.