Is income protection available to everyone?

By Isabelle Coetzee

If you’re involved in an accident and you’re unable to continue working, how will you ensure that your bills are paid and your loved ones are taken care of?

One way to prepare for this is to take out income protection cover. However, can you do this if you’re a freelancer? We find out exactly what income protection entails and how freelancers can benefit too.

Tip: If you work in a high-risk environment, consider disability cover.

How does income protection cover work?

According to Reagan Mitchell, certified financial planner and managing director of WealthyMe, income protection largely covers unforeseen disability.

“It’s an insurance policy that replaces a percentage of your income if you become temporarily or permanently unable to perform your occupation as a result of illness or injury,” says Mitchell.

“Some income protection policies provide retrenchment benefits too, that will cover your income for up to 12 months in the event that you are retrenched from your workplace,” he adds.

Mitchell says that income protection policies are generally related to your occupation, and require that you are earning an income at the time of application.

“Income protection policy payments tend to stop at age 65 if you become permanently unable to earn an income before then. The entire benefit falls away when you reach your retirement age,” says Mitchell.

He adds that it’s important to note that the income that you receive when you submit a claim is tax-free.

Sheila-Ann Robey, financial adviser at Lifeguards, an affiliate of Liberty, gives the following example to illustrate how income protection works:

“If you are too sick or too injured to work, you can claim from your income protection benefit after the expiry of your waiting period. If you recover from your illness or injury then your claim will cease.”

“However, if you do not recover from the illness or injury and you are permanently impaired to the point where you cannot work, the benefit will pay you your monthly sum assured until the expiry of the benefit, which you can select from age 65 to whole of life,” says Robey.

READ MORE: How income protection can help you when you’re sick

Higher risk- and inconsistent work

According to Elmarie Samuel, senior technical marketing specialist at FMI, a division of Bidvest Life Limited, income protection was, at a time, excluded from certain professions.

“In the past if you had a high risk of claiming due to the nature of your occupation, such as a high voltage electrician or rugby player, cover couldn’t be granted. The same applied to individuals who were working inconsistently and had an unpredictable income pattern,” Samuel says.

Nowadays, she explains, there are different plans to cater to higher risk professions, and to different employment situations.

The special case of freelancing

Samuel says that there is a lot of confusion around assessing the risk that freelancers present to an insurance company. This centres on the fact that the term “freelancer” can mean different things.

“A freelancer could be someone who has signed a temporary or fixed-term employment contract with one or more employers. On the other hand, they may not have signed any contracts, but rather quote for business and invoice for time spent working,” says Samuel.

To help get around this, the industry has designed questions to determine how consistently freelancers work. This more readily enables them to meet this growing customer segment. 

“If the person has worked consistently, they will be able to take out traditional income protection. If they have had periods where they haven’t worked, or if they work for relatively few hours, we will still be able to offer them cover, it will just be a different plan,” says Samuel.

By having clearer categories, as well as rules to handle different degrees of work consistency, a wide range of coverage can be offered to people in this position.

What if an application is rejected?

If an application for income protection of an inconsistent or high-risk worker is rejected, it usually owes to a combination of determining factors.

“If you don’t qualify for income protection, my advice would be to speak to your financial advisor to create a tailor-made solution to address your risk needs,” says Robey.

“It’s possible to apply for lump-sum disability and illness benefits, which can be used as a monthly income in the event that an income earner would not otherwise qualify for income protection,” she adds.

She points out that another solution would be to create a rainy-day fund that could act as a self-insurance fund in the event that you are unable to work for whatever reason.

Find out whether you qualify for disability cover by clicking here.

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