What is Disability Insurance? Do I need it? How much does it cost?

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Disability Insurance provides you with a monthly income should you suffer either a short or long term disability which renders you unable to work.

It will pay out a monthly benefit to replace your lost income due to any illness or injury which prevents you from earning your income.

It allows you to keep up with all your essential monthly expenditure – everything from bills and groceries to rent and mortgage payments so you can focus on your recovery.

  • Insure up to 70% of your monthly earnings
  • Choose to receive a pay out from as short as 1 week of illness or injury.
  • Choose long-term disability insurance to protect you right up until retirement if you become so ill / injured you can never work again.
  • In 2018, leading insurers Liverpool Victoria and Legal & General both paid 95% of valid Income Protection claims.

According to consumer group Which?, Income Protection is the one policy every working adult should consider.

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What Does Disability Insurance Cover?

Disability Insurance is more commonly known as Income Protection in the UK.

You take out a policy to cover a proportion of your earnings and should at any point you suffer an accident or sickness which renders you unable to undertake the day-to-day duties of your job the insurance will pay you monthly benefit to replace your lost income.

The disability might come as a result of an illness or bodily injury. As long as the disability prevents you from working, you should be able to make a claim.

The best cover will protect you in your own occupation, meaning as long as you’re incapable of doing your specific job role you’ll be covered.

What Doesn’t it cover?

Income Protection tends to have very few exclusions as standard, although those you may encounter tend to include:

  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Injuries sustained during the pursuit of criminal acts
  • Illnesses / injuries as the result of alcohol abuse or use of illicit substances
  • Illnesses / injuries that result from travel to areas with active internal conflict, political instability, ongoing epidemics or countries the Foreign Office has advised against travelling to.

It is designed to protect your income against most disabilities that prevent you from working however if you have pre-existing medical conditions this can complicate the situation.

At the application stage, you’ll be asked a series of medical questions about your current health. If you declare any conditions from the past 5 years the insurer will review your disclosure in more detail and likely do one of three things:

  • Cover the condition on standard terms
  • Cover the condition for an increased premium
  • Exclude the condition.

However, if a condition is excluded with certain insurers there may be an opportunity for you to serve a set period on the policy without receiving any advice, medication or treatment for that condition and have it reassessed and potentially covered. This will be entirely at the insurer’s discretion.

We have direct access to the underwriters at all the top UK insurers and so are best placed to get you the best possible terms. If you have existing health conditions and need some help please do not hesitate to pop us a call on 02084327333 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

Who Needs Disability Cover?

The risk of a disability tends to be a lot higher than most people would think. For instance, 1 in 6 working adults aged 55+ said they’d needed at least 6 months off work due to illness or injury at some point during their careers.

The length of time they required off work clearly goes beyond your usual coughs, colds and broken arms or legs and into more serious illnesses and injuries – disabilities that keep you off work for months at a time.

Meanwhile, there are more than 2 million people statisticians label as ‘economically inactive’ (i.e. not seeking work) due to long-term disability in the 3 months to January 2019.

If you ended up out of work long-term as a result of a disability, how would you cope financially?

The Consequences…

Many people would struggle if their intent was to rely on savings, with 2 in 5 of us having no more than £1,000 in cash stashed away for a rainy day. That’s enough to maintain average household expenditure of in excess of £500 per week for less than a fortnight if the going got tough and you couldn’t work.

Meanwhile, state benefits aren’t as generous as many people assume they are.

The main government disability benefit is Employment and Support Allowance, which starts at just £74.35 per week if you’re over 25.

You may get more depending on how serious your disability is and you may also be entitled to other state benefits, although again this depends on the nature of your disability and how it impacts your daily life.

Rarely are such benefits enough to make up ‘normal’ household expenditure if you become disabled through illness or injury and can no longer work.

How Does Income Protection Work?

There are four major policy factors that will determine the cost of cover:

  • Level of cover
    Also known as the sum assured, this reflects how much income you’ll need from the policy each month. You can insure between 50% and 70% of your gross earnings. The more you insure the more your insurance will cost, so consider only covering the essentials rather than simply going for the maximum.
  • Length of deferral period
    How long you can wait before you need the cover to kick in. Similar to a car insurance excess in that the higher the excess the lower the premium, with Income Protection the longer you can wait the cheaper cover will be. People typically set this to match any sick pay you might receive or savings you could rely on.
  • Policy cease age
    How long your cover will last – this is typically set to match your retirement age. Although many policies will offer a payout all the way up to age 70, this will notably increase the cost compared to a policy that ends at age 65 or even 60, so think carefully about your cease age.
  • Payout period
    This refers to the length of time you’ll receive a benefit for in the event of a claim. Cheaper, short-term policies will only pay out for a maximum of 1, 2 or 5 years per claim, which may not be sufficient if you suffer a long-term disability. The best disability insurance will pay out long-term with no limits, right up until retirement if necessary because you can never work again.

Choosing Your Premiums

When you take out a policy you have three options to pay for cover. These premiums will impact the cost of your Disability Insurance over time, so it’s important to consider each carefully to decide which is right for you.

  • Reviewable premiums
    The insurer can increase these premiums as they see fit, whether this be as a result of poor underlying economic factors or a spike in claims in any given year. While these premiums tend to work out cheaper at the start, because they can jump unpredictably over time they tend to work out more expensive when you hold the policy long-term.
  • Age banded premiums
    These premiums also increase with time but, unlike reviewable premiums, they only do so by a set figure each year. This will be laid out clearly in the policy documents and simply reflects the increased risk of you claiming as you age. These tend to work out cheaper at the start but, as they rise with time, also may work out more expensive over the life of the policy depending on your circumstances.
  • Guaranteed premiums
    Guaranteed for the life of the policy, these can’t change with time. If you take out a long-term policy when you’re young and healthy, when premiums are usually at their cheapest, guaranteed premiums will typically work out the most cost-effective (again depending on your circumstances) as they cannot rise over time.

Which Definition of Incapacity?

There are three definitions of incapacity to consider when taking out cover. Each one will impact whether you can claim, determining the level of disability you need to suffer before you can receive benefits.

Own Occupation Cover

Arguably the best definition of incapacity, this will allow you to make a claim if you’re unable to do your specific job due to a disability.

So, for instance, a surgeon with a hand injury wouldn’t be able to perform surgeries and so would generally be able to make an Income Protection claim due to disability.

Suited Occupation Cover

Suited occupation Income Protection means you’ll only be able to make a successful claim if you become so incapacitated you can’t perform your job or any other that you have the skills and experience to perform.

This may mean a surgeon with a hand injury couldn’t perform surgeries but could face not being able to make a successful claim because they have the skills and experience to teach medicine, for instance.

Any Occupation / Work Tasks

This is the most difficult definition of incapacity to claim on and in general we recommend most clients avoid it.

It means you can only make a successful Income Protection Insurance claim if you become so disabled you cannot work in any job / perform a set number of tasks required by most professions, such as typing or signing your name.

Making A Claim

  • Step 1 :: You encounter a health problem that prevents you from working and take leave to recover.
  • Step 2 :: Contact your policy provider to make a claim. You’ll typically need evidence of your incapacity in the form of a doctor’s note or other information from a consultant.
  • Step 3 :: Once your provider has approved your claim, your deferred period will begin. During this time you won’t receive a benefit, but may be receiving sick pay benefits from your employer.
  • Step 4 :: If, by the end of your deferred period, you are still not well enough to return to work, your insurer will begin providing you with monthly income. These benefits are usually transferred electronically into your bank account each month.
  • Step 5 :: You can continue receiving benefits if you need them until you have recovered, come to the end of your claims limit, or reached your policy’s cease age.
  • Step 6 :: Once you reach your policy’s cease age, your policy will end.

The income that you receive when claiming on your policy depends on your salary before you took leave. You are typically able to insure up to 70% of your gross monthly earnings (the sum before income tax is deducted) and the policy can last all the way up until your planned retirement.

samatha haffenden-angear, independent protection expert at drewberry

You can claim as many times as you need to for as long as you need to on your policy while it’s still active.

This means if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer multiple illnesses or injuries throughout your working life that each stop you from doing your job, you’ll be able to claim repeatedly.

Samantha Haffenden-Angear
Independent Protection Expert at Drewberry

Neil’s Cancer Claim with British Friendly

Neil is a client of Drewberry’s and we matched him with British Friendly for his Income Protection Insurance. He’d held the policy for just 4 years before unfortunately needing to make a claim.

After a bout of stomach pains took him to his GP, and his GP sent him off for further tests, Neil got the terrible news that he had stage 2 bowel cancer and needed surgery.

While the surgery was a success, Neil contracted post-operative sepsis and needed several weeks of hospital care. During this time, and his subsequent recovery at home, he was completely unable to work.

British Friendly paid a claim all the while Neil was unable to work, allowing him to keep up with all of his important bills, including his mortgage.

🤕 Read More About Neil’s Claim

Other Client’s Sickness Insurance Claims

The below table contains five examples of claims from Income Protection clients who have all needed to claim on their policy.

The information is from Liverpool Victoria’s claims history, it demonstrates how anyone can lose their income, regardless of age, gender or occupation, LV’s youngest claimant was just 22 years old.

Age at Claim Occupation Length of Claim (Ongoing) Total Payout to Date
31 Carpet fitter 15 years


48 Estate agent 14 years


43 Accountant 7 years



Quantity surveyor

7 years £207,296
49 Physiotherapist 3 years £73,796

How Much Does Disability Insurance Cost?

The cost of will vary depending on the details of your policy and your personal situation. Fortunately, our advisers know all the tricks of the trade to get you comprehensive cover while keeping premiums as low as possible.

Your Age and Health

The healthier you are, the lower your premiums will likely be. A big determining factor for the insurer when it comes to your overall health is your current age. This is because, as we get older, we are more susceptible to health problems and therefore more likely to make a claim.

Another detail about your health that plays an important role in the pricing of your policy is your smoker status.

Smokers have a much higher risk of serious illness than those who don’t smoke, which is why smokers can sometimes pay double the premiums of non-smokers for the same level of cover.

If you can go a full year without smoking and prove it by passing a cotinine test, you could benefit from lower premiums.

Finally, your medical history will play a role in your policy’s pricing. Insurers will likely to want to know about any recent and / or serious health conditions that you have suffered from.

They may look to increase the cost of cover to reflect the greater risk or simply exclude that condition entirely.

Your Job

Risky occupations may limit the definitions of incapacity available to you, but they can also affect your premiums.

If your occupation puts you at heightened risk of injury or illness, such as working at heights, then your insurer will usually increase the cost of your Disability Insurance policy.

The base premium for a professional who work sat a desk all day will usually be cheaper than for manual workers because the job is less risky and involves a lower chance of injuring yourself on a daily basis. Also, there are more conditions that could stop you working in a manual role than in a desk-based role.

Average Cost of Income Protection Cover

In the below table, we’ve calculated the average monthly cost of Disability Insurance.

To work out the cost of cover, we’ve assumed:

  • The individual is a healthy employed office worker
  • They’re a non-smoker
  • They want a benefit of £2,000 a month
  • They’re looking for an 8 week deferral period
  • Their cease age will be age 65
  • They’re looking for long-term cover that will pay out until retirement if they can never work again.

The Income Protection quotes we have calculated were from our online quote engine and represent the cheapest policy that matches the above criteria from across the entire UK market.


Age 25



Age 35



Age 45



Disability Insurance vs Critical Illness Insurance

The most common alternative to Disability Insurance that people consider is Critical Illness Insurance. While Disability Cover will pay out a monthly income which aligns with your expenditure, Critical Illness Cover will pay out one large lump sum on a claim.

It can be tempting to opt for Critical Illness Insurance but there are a fair few reasons why Disability Insurance can be a better option to rely on if you are unable to work.

  • Disability Insurance policies allow you can claim for any health problem that renders you incapacitated, whereas a Critical Illness policy requires your health condition to be on a set list or serious illnesses detailed in the policy’s terms.
  • Disability Cover will protect against ‘minor’ illnesses and injuries, such as bad backs, as well as more serious ones such as cancer. Critical Illness Insurance, on the other hand, is only there to guard against more serious illnesses/injuries, such as total paralysis or severe cancers.
  • If your health problem results in a long-term disability, a lump sum payment from a Critical Illness policy won’t stretch indefinitely. However, long-term Disability Insurance will provide you with steady income until you are back in employment or about to retire.
  • Income Protection can cover you for more than just one incident of incapacity. As long as you are paying your premiums, you can claim as many times as you need to while you are still working. On the other hand, a Critical Illness policy will only ever pay out the once and your policy will end as soon as you have received the payment for your claim.
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Common Disability Insurance Questions...

  • Can I get Disability Insurance if self employed?

    Given self employed individuals have no sick pay to rely on Disability Insurance maybe even more important.

    So long as you are working more than 16hrs per week and can prove your income you are eligible for cover whether you are a self employed company director, soletrader or employee.

  • What age should you buy cover?

    The younger you are when you buy a policy the better. This is because, if you opt for guaranteed premiums, you can lock in cheaper premiums when you’re younger throughout the life of the policy.

    As outlined above, the cost of a policy for a healthy, non-smoking 25-year-old office worker is around £34.40 per month for £2,000 per month of cover. If you put off buying cover until you’re 45, this rises to £77.74.

  • Who needs Disability Insurance?

    Essentially, anyone who’s worried that a disability could stop them working and earning could benefit from taking out cover.

    Whether your disability is caused by an accident, injury or illness the policy is there to pay you a monthly income if it prevents you from working.

    If you have commitments such as a mortgage, children, a dependent partner or anyone / anything else that relies on you earning a regular income, a long term Income Protection policy may be a good fit for you.

  • How do you qualify for Disability Cover?

    You need to be working for at least 16 hours per week. You can be working full-time or part-time, be self-employed, business owner company director / contractor.

    ‘Own occupation’ cover is the best form of cover and the one we recommend for the majority of our clients because it’s the most robust definition of incapacity.

    Lesser definitions of incapacity might include suited occupation or activities of daily living where a claim could be declined even if you are unable to undertake your current job.

  • How is it taxed?

    If you take out your own policy you will pay your premiums from your net income. As you are paying the premiums personally should a claim arise it will be paid to you tax-free.

    If your employer or business is paying for the premiums on your behalf via a Group Income Protection scheme a claim would be paid directly to the company and the benefit would then be taxed as income.

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Compare Best UK Disability Insurance Companies



Aviva covers all policyholders with an own occupation definition of incapacity and, if you choose to return to work in a different occupation until you are well enough to return to your pre-incapacity occupation, Aviva will top up your reduced income with Back to Work Benefits.

  • Maximum coverage: 55% of your pre-tax salary, up to a maximum of £240,000 per year.
  • Deferred Period4 / 8 / 13 / 26 / 52 / 104 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 59
british friendly

British Friendly

British Friendly gives access to its Mutual Benefits program, which provides rewards such as vouchers for high street shops, discounted fitness tracking devices, emotional support services and online legal services.

  • Maximum coverage: 70% of your pre-tax salary, up to a maximum of £45,000 per year.
  • Deferred periods: Day 1 / 1 / 4 / 8 / 13 / 26 / 52 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 64
  • One of the few insurers that will cover pilots on an own occupation basis
cirencester friendly

Cirencester Friendly

Cirencester Friendly provides you with a range of additional benefits and services, including a hospitalisation benefit and a Friendly Voice service that provides you with a personal nurse that you can contact for advice and emotional support.

  • Maximum coverage: 65% of your pre-tax salary, up to a maximum of £65,000 per year.
  • Deferred periods: Day 1 or 4 / 8/ 13 / 26 / 52 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 54
The Exeter

The Exeter

The Exeter is one of the few UK insurers that is able to offer own occupation cover to workers in higher risk occupations, although such policies only offer age banded premiums.

  • Maximum coverage: 60% of your gross salary up to the first £100,000 and 40% of any additional income.
  • Deferred periods: Day 1 / 1 week / 4 weeks / 8 weeks / 13 weeks / 26 weeks / 52 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 59
legal & general

Legal & General

Legal & General comes with a free life cover element that pays out a maximum of 12 times your monthly benefit if you pass away while the policy is in force.

  • Maximum coverage: 60% of your annual income before tax, up to a maximum of £200,000 per year.
  • Deferred periods: 4 /13 / 26 / 52 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 60
liverpool victoria

Liverpool Victoria

Liverpool Victoria offers free access to unique LV Doctor Services, which include fast access to remote GP services, second opinion services and private prescriptions for policyholders and their children up to the age of 16.

  • Maximum coverage: 60% of your annual income before tax, up to a maximum benefit of £12,500 per month
  • Deferred periods: 1 month / 2 months / 3 months / 6 months / 12 months
  • Maximum entry age: 59
royal london

Royal London

Royal London can include Fracture Cover, which pays out a lump sum of between £1,500 and £4,000 on top of any benefit you’d receive for being off work if you receive a fracture of a specified body part

  • Maximum coverage: 65% of the first £15,000 income and 55% of the remainder, up to a maximum of £250,000 per year
  • Deferred periods: 4 / 8 / 13 / 26 / 52 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 59
Shepherds friendly

Shepherds Friendly

Shepherds Friendly allows you to apply to suspend cover and premium payments under your plan for a minimum continuous period of 3 months and up to a maximum continuous period of 24 months. This is known as ‘Career Break’ option.

  • Maximum coverage: 70% of income up to £49,000 per year
  • Deferred periods: Day 1 / 1 week/ 4 weeks / 8 weeks / 13 weeks / 26 weeks / 52 weeks
  • Maximum entry age: 60


Vitality provides a unique offering. While the core of its policy is similar to other providers’ offering, it also offers a unique set of additional benefits to those who participate in the Wellness / Optimiser programs that can include policy discounts and rewards.

  • Maximum coverage: 60% of your earnings capped up to £2,500 per month and 50% of any earnings above, up to a maximum of £16,666 per month
  • Deferred periods: 1 week / 1 / 3 / 6 / 12 months
  • Maximum entry age: 59

Get Disability Insurance Quotes and Expert Advice

With so much to consider when it comes to setting up Income Protection, it’s important that you don’t miss anything out. That’s where the advice of an expert such as one of the team at Drewberry can be invaluable.

Why Speak to Us…

We started Drewberry because we were tired of being treated like a number and not getting the service we all deserve when it comes to things as important as protecting our health and our finances. Below are just a few reasons why it makes sense to let us help.

  • There is no fee for our service
  • We are independent and impartial
    Drewberry isn’t tied to any insurance company, so we can provide completely impartial advice to make sure you get the most appropriate policy based solely on your needs.
  • We’ve got bargaining power on our side
    This allows us to negotiate better premiums for you than you going direct yourself.
  • You’ll speak to a dedicated expert from start to finish
    You will speak to a named expert with a direct telephone and email. No more automated machines and no more being sent from pillar to post – you’ll have someone to speak to who knows you.
  • Benefit from our 5-star service
    We pride ourselves on providing a 5-star service, as can be seen from our 2904 and growing independent client reviews rating us at 4.92 / 5.
  • Gain the protection of regulated advice
    You are protected. Where we provide a regulated advice service we are responsible for the policy we set-up for you. Doing it yourself or going direct to an insurer won’t provide this protection, so you won’t benefit from these securities.
  • Claims support when you need it the most
    You have support should you need to make a claim. The most important thing when it comes to insurance is that claims are paid and quickly. We are here to support you during the claims process and make sure it’s as smooth and stress free as possible.
Tom Conner Director at Drewberry

Taking out Disability Insurance can end up a little confusing especially with the many pitfalls to avoid.

If you need any help please do not hesitate to pop us a call on 02084327333 or email help@drewberry.co.uk.

Tom Conner
Director at Drewberry

I had a great experience with Drewberry, they have a lot of knowledge and expertise with life insurance and income protection and were able to advise me and arrange suitable products. Highly recommend.

Lachlan Mellings
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