Find the right income protection insurance for you.
Protecting your finances and future earnings isn’t something many people think about on a daily basis. If you suffered from a debilitating injury or illness and were unable to perform the duties of your normal job, how would you pay the bills? Income protection ensures you can support you and your family during a short or long-term disability.
Income protection is a little different from health insurance or life insurance, and it might not be right for everyone. Learn more about how it works and basic coverage to decide if income protection is right for you and your financial plan.
Ready to compare policies? Start here with 3 easy steps.
Income protection insurance or disability insurance replaces your income in the short term or long term if you’re unable to work or unable to perform the major duties of your job due to:
What type of benefit does income insurance provide?
Most policies will provide you with a monthly payment up to 50-60% (with some up to 70-80%) of your total income to keep you afloat during recovery or during a long-term disability. Your income can include any commissions, bonuses or benefits you receive. Premium payments are generally tax deductible.
What does the monthly benefit cover?
The monthly benefit can cover your everyday expenses as well as any long-term debt repayments and medical bills. These expenses can include:
Credit card debt
Who should get income protection ?
Income protection insurance protects you from being unable to work and make a living. If an injury or disease kept you from working in the short term or long term, could you rely on other forms of savings or insurance? You’re most likely to need it if you’re self-employed, can’t rely on employer sick pay or have an occupation dependent on your physical health.
Is income insurance the same as life insurance?
Income protection insurance and life insurance are not the same products. Income insurance protects your ability to work and support yourself and others financially, while life insurance protects your survivors when you are no longer able to support them.
Likelihood of actually needing income protection during your career?
Medical problems are the top cause of bankruptcies and foreclosures¹.
One in eight workers will be disabled for five years or more during their working careers².
The average disability claim lasts almost three years³.
Total disability benefit. You will receive a monthly benefit if you meet your disability insurance plan’s definition of total disability. You will receive your benefit from the end of the waiting period to the end of the benefit period.
Partial disability benefit. You will be paid the monthly partial disability benefit if you meet the definition of partial disability.
Benefit indexation. Each year, your insured monthly benefit will increase to keep pace with inflation.
Premium waiver. You will not have to pay your premium if you are eligible to receive the monthly benefit.
Rehabilitation expenses coverage. Your insurer will pay for the cost of an approved rehabilitation course if it is necessary for your recovery.
Recurrent benefit. Your insurer will pay a benefit without a waiting period if after a specified period of time at work (usually 6-12 months), you suffer the same or a related disability from a previous claim.
Death benefit. Your beneficiaries will receive a lump-sum benefit equaling a multiple of your insured monthly benefit if you pass away before the policy expires.
Needlestick injury benefit. This is a benefit paid if you become infected with HIV, AIDS, Hepatitis A or Hepatitis C as a result of a splash or needlestick injury that occurred at work. This benefit is normally only offered to medical practitioners, and is often also covered through workers’ compensation.
Cosmetic or elective surgery benefit. You will receive benefits if you cannot work or become totally disabled as a result of cosmetic surgery, general elective surgery or donating an organ.
Specified injury benefit. You will be paid the insured monthly benefit in advance without a waiting period if you suffer an injury listed in your policy.
Travel benefit. You can be reimbursed for travel and transportation costs to reach a medical facility or for others traveling to care for you.
Family care benefit. A benefit will be paid if at the end of the waiting period, a family member’s income is reduced as a result of looking after you while you are totally disabled.
Worldwide insurance. You will be covered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week anywhere in the world. Some income insurance plans are only available to expatriates living abroad and have different rules about approved countries and receiving benefits.
Day-one accident benefit. In the event of an accident, you can receive the benefit of your disability insurance policy from day one. Watch out for policies that will require you to be injured for a certain period before backdating the benefit.
Lump-sum payment. You will receive a lump-sum payment as opposed to a monthly payment if you satisfy the company’s definition of total disablement.
Child care benefit. You will receive a benefit payment if you are unable to work and your child is dependent on you for everyday needs.
Retirement optimizer. This covers a portion of your monthly income so that your retirement fund can continue to grow while you are under an income protection claim.
Pre-existing condition inclusion. Any pre-existing illness or injury might not be included in your coverage, but some policies allow you to include specified pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or heart conditions.
Business expenses. This covers the fixed expenses of your business if you are a self-employed worker.
Increasing claims option or claim escalation. This is a paid option that increases the monthly benefit you receive over time by an agreed percentage or in line with annual inflation increases. The increasing claims option is suited to those whose income protection policy pays a monthly benefit of longer than two years and who are not sure if the amount they would receive would be sufficient after future inflation has reduced its value.
Understand your income needs Compare benefits Check policy structure
Check the structure of your policy
Make sure you understand your policy options and coverage. Ask your insurer plenty of questions when comparing policies. You might have a free review period in the first 7-10 days to change or cancel your policy if you change your mind or the policy terms aren’t what you agreed to.
Ask for all the details. Don’t be afraid to ask question after question of your insurer until you’re sure you’ve got all the information. This means knowing exactly what is and isn’t covered, how much your benefit amount will be and what your premiums will be now and in the future.
Keep up with inflation. You can look for a policy which has index-linked premiums and benefits, so that you know that your benefit amount will always keep up with inflation costs.
Look for a non-cancelable policy. A non-cancelable policy means that your insurer won’t reassess your health or circumstances each time you renew your policy, so you won’t be refused coverage or have a premium loading added. You can also take out a policy with guaranteed future insurability so that you can increase your level of coverage without your application needing to go back to the underwriter.
The effects of other income. Be aware that offset clauses can allow your insurer to reduce your benefit payout if you are receiving income from another source, such as sick pay from an employer or Centrelink benefits.
Know the conditions of insurance through your super. When you take out income protection insurance through your super, the policy is between the trustee of the fund and the insurer. Therefore, you need to make sure that both the trustee and the insurer know who your nominated beneficiaries are so the benefits go where they are needed.
Make sure you’re happy with the waiting period and benefit period. The waiting period is the time you have to wait before you receive your benefit payout after a successful claim. The waiting period you choose will depend on how much you have in savings, and how long you can survive financially on other benefits, such as sick leave. The benefit period is the length of time you receive the benefit for, whether it is for two months, two years or until retirement.
Own occupation or any occupation. Make sure you know whether you will be expected to return to any job you are able to perform after an illness or injury, or if you can continue to receive a benefit until you are able to return to your own occupation.
Understand the terms and conditions. As boring and time consuming as it is to read the fine print of an insurance policy, you want to make sure you understand all of the terms, inclusions, exclusions and conditions of your policy, so that you know you have the coverage you want and need. You don’t want to be paying premiums for a policy, only to find out at the time of a claim that you’re not eligible for benefits.
When will I qualify for a payment with income protection?
One of the most important steps when comparing disability insurance policies is to find out when you will actually be covered. Providers will class disabilities as either partial or total and permanent. The exact definition of total disablement will vary among insurance providers but most will use the following characteristics to approve a benefit payment.
You suffer a serious accident or illness.
You are unable to work due to suffering a serious accident or illness.
You experience a decrease in income following a serious accident or illness.
This is where it can get confusing. In this definition of “unable to work” or “disablement,” life insurance companies use different definitions of disability.
You are unable to perform important duties in your role at work because you have suffered an illness or injury, including manual work, supervision, desk work, meeting or presenting.
You have suffered a reduction in your income because of an accident or illness.
You are unable to perform the duties of your own occupation for a certain number of hours per week after suffering a serious accident or illness.
How much will I be paid if I’m unable to work?
You will receive up to 80% of your total monthly income. Your total monthly income is based on either your income when you apply or your income when you make a claim.
A key factor in how much you will receive from payments is whether to take out an agreed-value or an indemnity-value income protection policy.
You are insured for the amount of income you are earning at the time of your application.
To apply, you will need to provide financial documents to your insurer, but you won’t need to produce this documentation again if you make a claim.
You will know what you will be paid regardless of your income at claim time.
The monthly benefit amount will remain the same, regardless of fluctuations in your income over the policy period.
Who does agreed value suit?
This option is ideal if you are a self-employed worker or the nature of your work means that your income fluctuates frequently.
Indemnity value will pay you for what you say you earn at the time you complete an application.
You will need to verify your income when you claim.
If your salary has decreased since you took out coverage, your benefit will be reduced to reflect this.
Who does indemnity value suit?
Indemnity value is generally a good option if you are not a self-employed worker or concerned about how your income may change in the future.
What do insurance companies recognize as income?
Pre-tax remuneration paid by your employer, including salary, fees and fringe benefits of the previous financial year.
Retirement plan contributions made by your employer.
Commissions and bonuses paid by your employer.
Self-employed worker, directors and partners
Income generated due to the worker’s own exertion minus expenses that have occurred during the previous financial year.
In this case your income and benefit amount are assessed when you make a claim. When you make a claim you will also need to provide financial documents, so if your income has changed since you applied for the policy, your benefit will also change to reflect your income. An indemnity policy is often cheaper in premiums than an agreed value policy, and can be ideal if you are in a steady job with regular pay raises and benefits.
How is income protection different from workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation or workers’ comp is a nationwide mandate where all employers pay the state or federal government a premium in case the employer, employee, or third party is injured at work. The employee can then make a claim and the insurer will pay out compensation and other benefits.
Worker’s compensation should only be viewed as the minimum insurance coverage you need.
While all employees are covered under workers’ compensation, that doesn’t make income protection insurance insurance obsolete. You should view workers’ compensation as the minimum amount of insurance coverage your employer is required to have. Potential benefits are not always guaranteed.
Income protection insurance
Provides an ongoing benefit payment of usually 75% of your monthly income if you suffer a serious illness or injury.
Will cover injury and illness that occurs both at work and outside of the workplace.
Provides additional benefit payments to cover rehabilitation expenses.
You can choose to have your benefit paid for 2 years, 5 years or to age 59.
You are generally entitled to compensation if you suffer an injury, disease, illness or psychological injury at or because of your work.
Workers’ Compensation provides coverage for reasonable medical, surgical, rehabilitation and hospital care for work-related injuries, plus any loss of income during this period.
Some states require you to make a claim within 30-45 days of the incident.
Employees who are injured while reckless, drunk, using drugs or breaking rules might not be covered.
Premiums are funded by the employer.
You might be required to go to a specific doctor referred by your insurer, who will ask about your medical history to determine any pre-existing conditions.
Disability payments are typically two-thirds of a worker’s salary.
Get a quick life insurance quote
Find out how much life insurance will cost you
Income protection insurance is a great option to protect your family and livelihood during your working years, but it’s not comprehensive. You might want to consider life insurance, in addition to income protection, to provide for your family after you’re no longer able to. Get a quick cost estimate by answering a few simple questions with our life insurance calculator.
Frequently asked questions about income protection
Yes, income protection is another word for disability insurance. Both protect your ability to work and provide for yourself and your family financially.
If you have become ill or injured and are unable to work and earn an income, you will not be able to obtain income protection insurance to cover you for the current situation. However, you can still apply for income protection insurance for future events. Since your health is taken into consideration when you apply for income protection insurance, you may find that your current illness or injury may become a pre-existing condition. This means that you may have to pay higher premiums for your coverage, although this can depend on the nature of your condition or the type and level of injury.
All insurance approvals and premiums are assessed based on your level of risk, and the higher your risk level, the more you have to pay in premiums. In some cases, it can be harder to secure coverage. Being classified as a standard risk means you have a low-risk job, lifestyle and health factors. High-risk coverage can be more expensive for people with riskier jobs and leisure activities.
This is a condition set by each insurer, requiring that you work a certain number of hours each week to be eligible for coverage.
Unfortunately, the maximum application age for most income protection policies is 59, though some allow applicants up to 64 years old. It may still be worth speaking with an insurance consultant about other insurance options that would be worth considering for your situation.
If you know what need in a policy and need coverage now, coverage can generally be put in place online or over the phone on the same day. Make sure you follow the provider’s entry requirements and documentation requirements.
This is the maximum length of time your policy will pay you an income if you are unable to work. Typical benefit periods are 2 years, 5 years or to age 59, and the longer the benefit period, the higher the premium.
Each insurer will have their own specific definition, but in most cases you can be classified with a duties-based disability where you are unable to perform the core tasks of your job, an income-based disability where your income is reduced because of your disability or an hours-based disability where the hours you are able to work are reduced because of your disability.
Most income protection insurance providers will offer to cover your average salary up to 80% at most. However, you may find other insurers that may offer additional coverage in excess of up to 20%. It is important to note that the additional amount must be used as a retirement plan contribution. This means you will receive the 80% benefit amount and the remainder will be paid into your super fund. It is unlikely that you will find insurers who offer to cover 100% of your income, as there should be an incentive for you to return to the workforce once you have recovered.
Policies will usually pay out 50-80% of your regular gross income.
Income protection insurance generally doesn’t provide coverage for redundancy, although there are a number of general insurance providers that do provide coverage for redundancy.
Waiting periods (the time you must be unable to work before you start receiving a payout) range from 14 days to 2 years. The shorter the waiting period, the higher the premium. The cause of your sickness or injury does not need to be work related to receive the benefit.
Income protection insurance will not provide any benefit payment during pregnancy. There are a number of insurers that will let you waive your premium during pregnancy though.
Generally the older you are, the more likely you are to suffer an illness, and the premium you pay will be higher. Smoking is also seen as an added level of risk with higher premiums.
A stepped premium is one which starts out as very affordable and increases each year as you get older, while a level premium stays the same throughout your policy and only increases to match inflation.
Premiums can be based on the type of occupation the person has and the perceived level of risk. A manual or blue-collar worker such as a miner might be required to pay a higher premium compared to an office worker, who is considered less risky.
¹ U.S. Courts, Bankruptcy Statistics, December 2006-2007
² Gen Re, U.S. Individual DI Risk Management Survey 2011
³ Commissioner’s Disability Insurance Tables A and C
Kyle Morgan is a producer for finder.com who has worked for the USA Today network and Relix magazine, among other publications. He can be found writing about everything from the latest car loan stats to tips on saving money when traveling overseas. He lives in Asbury Park, where he loves exploring new places and sipping on hoppy beer. Oh, and he doesn't discriminate against buffalo wings — grilled or fried are just fine.
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