Best Income Protection insurance policies in the UK

16 min Read Published: 22 May 2024

Best Income Protection insurance policies in the UKIncome protection is perhaps the most vital personal insurance for anyone who depends on their mental and physical ability to generate an income. In this article, we explain the main features and benefits of income protection and compare the Top 10 income protection insurance policies in the UK based on how much cover you can get as well as how often they pay out claims.

We also explain the benefits of speaking to a specialist income protection insurance broker who can source the best way to protect your income for your specific needs and circumstances and you will qualify for up to £100 cashback*.

1 minute summary - Best income protection insurance UK

  • Income protection insurance pays out a monthly cash benefit if you become unable to work due to illness or injury.
  • Short-term income protection can provide an income to you for 1, 2, 3 or 5 years.
  • Long-term income protection could keep paying you up until retirement.
  • The price will be determined by the amount of income you need, how long you can get by for and your job, health and lifestyle.
  • The best income protection insurance providers include Aviva, British Friendly, Legal & General, LV=, Royal London, Shepherds Friendly, The Exeter, Vitality, Wesleyan and Zurich
  • Finding the best income protection insurance for you depends on your situation and circumstances so it is a good idea to speak to an income protection specialist, plus you will qualify for up to £100 cashback* when you buy.

What is income protection insurance?

Income protection insurance is a personal insurance policy that pays out a monthly benefit if you become unable to work due to illness or injury. Many policies will not pay out if you have been made redundant, however. Income protection policies will often pay out until your retirement, death or until you return to work, although short-term policies are also available that will pay out for a limited period of time – often around one, two or five years. Short-term policies usually have cheaper monthly premiums as a result giving people on a budget access to income protection.

Income protection insurance policies will pay out after an agreed deferred period has passed which is often between one and 12 months. The deferred period is the waiting period between the first day that you are unable to work and when the income protection benefit starts to be paid to you.

Payouts are tax-free but are limited to a percentage of your salary, typically around 60% to 70% of your gross income can be covered. The benefit amount is not taxed and you can usually receive state benefits like statutory sick pay in addition to the income protection pay out.

Which are the best income protection insurance providers?

The best income protection provider for you will depend on what job you do, how much benefit you would like and how soon you wish to be covered if you do become unable to work due to an illness or injury. As such, it is important to consider income protection policies alongside your personal circumstances. However, a good income protection insurance provider will offer a variety of options to suit different customers and how much they wish to spend so we have compared a number of insurance companies that offer this cover and assessed them using some important factors. These include, the maximum amount of cover you can buy, the various benefit periods you can set, what percentage of claims were paid by each insurer and the choice of waiting periods on offer. In choosing the best income protection insurance providers, we have also considered the variety of occupations each insurer is prepared to cover. Below is the shortlist of the best income protection insurance providers selected after this process.

Top 10 income protection insurance policies in the UK

Provider Maximum insured amount per year Benefit period (length of cover) Payout rate – % of claims paid Deferred period (weeks)
Aviva £240,000 2 years and full term 94.3% paid out (2022) 4, 8, 13, 26, 52 or 104
British Friendly £57,000 1, 2, 5 years and full term 90.0% paid out (2022) 1, 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
L&G £240,000 1 or 2 years and full term 82.2% paid out (2022) 2, 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
LV= £250,000 1 or 2 years and full term 92.0% paid out (2022) 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
Royal London £250,000 1, 2, 5 years and full term 86.0% paid out (2022) 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
Shepherds Friendly £49,000 1 or 2 years and full term 96.2% paid out (2022) 8,13, 26 or 52
The Exeter £120,000 2 or 5 years and full term 92.0% paid out (2022) 1, 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
Vitality £120,000 2 years and full term 97.7% paid out (2022) 1, 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
Wesleyan £130,000 or £208,000 for doctors and dentists 2 or 5 years and full term 96.0% paid out (2022) 0, 2, 4, 8, 13, 26 or 52
Zurich £240,000 2 years and full term 85.0% paid out (2022) 4, 8, 13, 26, 52 or 104

Below we summarise the key features of the top 10 income protection policies in the UK

Aviva – Income protection policy summary

  • Aviva has over 15 million customers in the UK and offers a wide range of insurance products, including income protection which it refers to as living costs protection.
  • Customers can choose between full-term cover which will pay out for the whole time they are unable to work, or a shorter ‘limited payment term’ which will provide cover for up to two years.
  • Policies will pay out 65% of the first £60,000 of gross earnings, plus 45% of any gross earnings above £60,000 to a maximum of £240,000 a year.
  • Policies also provide a ‘hospital benefit’ that will pay for each night you are in hospital during the deferred period (if you stay in for more than six nights), as well as a ‘trauma benefit’ that will pay out if you suffer from blindness, deafness, loss of hand/foot, loss of speech, paralysis of limb or loss of independence.
  • If you buy directly from Aviva, you can buy the Living Costs Protection which provides a monthly benefit for up to 12 months per claim but is limited to between £500 and £1,500 monthly benefit amount.

British Friendly – Income protection policy summary

  • British Friendly was founded in 1902 and offers a range of investment-linked policies and income protection policies.
  • Customers can choose from a full-term policy or a shorter-term policy providing cover for one, two or five years.
  • Policies will pay out up to 65% of the first £60,000 you earn then 45% of earnings over this amount up to a maximum of £100,000 of your annual taxable income if you’re employed.
  • You can insure up to 70% of your pre-tax profits if you’re self-employed.
  • Specially designed income protection is available for teachers, NHS doctors, surgeons, nurses, midwives and dentists.
  • The maximum income that can be paid is up to £4,750 per month or £57,000 per annum.

L&G – Income protection policy summary

  • L&G was founded in 1836 and offers insurance and investment products.
  • Income protection customers can choose between full-term cover, or the ‘Low Cost Option’ which will provide cover for one or two years.
  • A ‘Low-Start' option will cost less to start but the monthly premiums will increase with age each year.
  • An ‘Illness & Injury Insurance' policy provides up to 12 months of benefit per claim at a lower cost than full income protection insurance
  • Policies will pay out 60% of the first £60,000 of gross earnings, plus 50% of any gross earnings above £60,000 up to a maximum of £240,000 a year.
  • If you have been self-employed for less than 12 months then the maximum benefit is 35% of your gross earnings (up to £240,000 per year).
  • Policies provide a ‘hospitalisation benefit’ which pays out if you have to stay in hospital for more than seven nights during your deferred period.
  • Policies also provide life cover which will pay out an amount equal to 12 times the monthly premium (not the monthly benefit) if you die during the length of the policy.

LV= – Income protection policy summary

  • LV= has over 1.16 million customers and offers a variety of products, including life insurance, income protection and investments.
  • Income protection customers can choose between full-term cover, or the ‘Budget’ option which will provide cover for one or two years.
  • Policies pay out up to 60% of your gross annual income, up to a maximum of £20,833 a month (level cover), or £250,000 a year.
  • If you die before the end date of the policy it will pay out a fixed lump sum of up to £10,000.
  • Policies also pay out a lump sum if you are diagnosed with a specified bone fracture or if your child is diagnosed with a specified illness.

Royal London – Income protection policy summary

  • Royal London was founded in 1861 and offers a range of protection policies and pensions.
  • Income protection customers can choose between full-term cover or a shorter-term cover that will pay out for one, two or five years.
  • Policies pay out up to 65% of your first £15,000 of pre-tax earnings, plus up to 55% of the remainder, up to £250,000 a year.
  • Fracture cover and hospitalisation payment (for stays of more than six consecutive nights during the deferred period) are offered as standard.

Shepherds Friendly – Income protection policy summary

  • Shepherds Friendly was founded on Christmas Day in 1826. It offers a variety of savings products, as well as income protection and life insurance policies.
  • Income protection customers can choose from a full-term policy or a shorter-term policy providing cover for one or two years.
  • Policies pay up to 70% of your annual income up to a maximum of £49,000.
  • If you are self-employed, your income is based on the average of the last three years’ annual net profit.

The Exeter – Income protection policy summary

  • The Exeter, previously the Exeter Friendly Society, offers a range of insurance products, including income protection.
  • Customers can choose from a full-term policy or a shorter-term policy providing cover for two or five years.
  • Policies pay up to 60% of your taxable income up to £100,000 and up to 40% thereafter, up to a maximum of £10,000 a month (£120,000 a year).
  • You can fix up to 75% of your initial benefit or up to £1,000 a month.

Vitality – Income protection policy summary

  • Vitality is owned by Discovery Holdings and offers a range of insurance products. It also offers Vitality Rewards. See our Vitality review for more information on Vitality rewards.
  • Income protection customers can choose from a full-term policy or a shorter-term policy providing cover for up to two years.
  • Policies pay out up to 60% of your gross income for the first £60,000, and 50% thereafter – capped at £10,000 per month (£120,000 a year).
  • You’ll receive a hospital benefit if you are hospitalised for more than six consecutive nights.

Wesleyan – Income protection policy summary

  • Wesleyan was established in Birmingham in 1841 and offers a variety of products including savings and investments, mortgages and insurance.
  • Income protection customers can choose from a full-term policy or a shorter-term policy providing cover for two or five years.
  • The maximum weekly benefit is £2,500 (£130,000 a year) or £4,000 (£208,000 a year) for doctors, dentists and lawyers.
  • To work out the benefit paid, your insurable income will be calculated by taking 60% of the first £40,000 of your income, adding on 55% of any income between £40,000 and £110,000 and adding on 50% of any income above £110,000.

Zurich – Income protection policy summary

  • Zurich is a Swiss insurance company offering a wide range of savings, investments and insurance products.
  • Income protection customers can choose from a full-term policy or a shorter-term policy providing cover for up to two years.
  • Policies pay up to 80% of your gross annual income, up to £240,000 a year.
  • The more comprehensive ‘Select’ policy offers a hospital benefit if you are hospitalised for more than six consecutive nights, and up to £50,000 if an accident or illness leaves you with a life-changing condition.
  • The Select policy will also pay out up to £10,000 if you die during the term.

Who needs income protection insurance?

As well as employees, self-employed workers should also think about buying income protection insurance if their income is dependent on their ability to work. Income protection cover is for anyone who will suffer a loss of income if they became ill or injured so that they can receive a benefit that will provide financial support. Manual workers are usually the most aware of this risk but it is worth noting that stress, depression and anxiety as well as other mental health conditions are high on the list of reasons for claims as is cancer. Falling ill could prevent anyone from being able to work including clerical workers.

Self-employed people should bear in mind there may be restrictions on payment levels and deferred periods. You are also likely to be asked for one year’s worth of audited accounts to prove your income – some insurers will require this upfront and others only require this if you claim. Find out more in our article ‘Should you get self employed income protection and which is the best?’

Types of income protection

There are some different types of income protection to consider before you take out a policy and we have summarised the most popular below.

Short-term income protection insurance

Short-term income protection insurance pays out for a limited period – you can choose between 1, 2, 3 or 5 years of benefit payment per claim. Although there is a limit to the period of time for each claim, multiple claims are possible. In addition to paying out if you are unable to work due to illness or injury, some policies will pay out if you are made redundant. This limited option is cheaper than the more comprehensive, long-term income protection cover.

Long-term income protection insurance

Long-term income protection insurance provides a monthly payment for as long as it takes for the insured person to recover and return to work and if there was no recovery then the policy can pay out until retirement or death. Long-term income protection policies are usually more expensive but like the short-term policies, you can make multiple claims during the term of the policy. So, even if you recover from an illness and return to work, you may be able to claim on the same policy in the future should you fall ill again.

What are the different types of income protection premiums?

Income protection quotes are not all the same and it is vital to understand what type of premium you have been quoted before you start your income protection insurance policy.

  • Guaranteed income protection premiums – fixed from the start of the policy so the price won't change for the whole term even if you claim.
  • Reviewable income protection premiums – can be adjusted by the insurer at regular intervals even if you don't claim; cheaper to begin with but could end up costing more over time.
  • Age-banded income protection premiums – premiums generally start off lower but will increase every year with your age and you can usually see what the increases will be each year making them predictable.
Cashback Offer

Up to £100 cashback on income protection insurance

Our partner LifeSearch will help you get the best and cheapest income protection.

  • Search the market and all the leading insurers
  • Free advice with no obligation to purchase
  • Up to £100 cashback for new customers

Get Advice Now*

Which income protection policies have the best terms and conditions?

What is covered and the restrictions for a claim against an income protection policy will vary between one policy and another. Some insurers provide comprehensive terms and conditions with no exclusions while others may provide income protection insurance with several standard exclusions.

It is important to understand that standard exclusions are events or circumstances that will not be covered regardless of your personal health or occupation – these are the same for all applicants. However some insurers may apply a specific exclusion after assessing your income protection insurance application but this is based on your health, lifestyle or occupation. For example, a person who has a history of spinal issues that has meant they have taken time off work in the past may be covered for anything except back and spinal issues. On the other hand, a standard exclusion may be something like ‘you are not covered if you are outside of the UK or if your incapacity occurs as a result of war or civil commotion'.

No, single insurer is the best income protection insurance provider as different insurers will be good for people in different circumstances of health, occupation and lifestyle. Where one insurer may provide excellent income protection for a person who has a dangerous job, another may be generous in the terms it offers to people with pre-existing health conditions.

To get the best income protection insurance policy for your specific job, health history and lifestyle you should speak to an income protection insurance expert*. They will search the market for the best income protection cover at the best price while choosing the best terms and conditions based on what you tell them.

How much does income protection cost?

The cost of income protection insurance will vary depending on a number of different factors including your age, whether you smoke, your lifestyle and health, your occupation and how much cover you require. Below, we have shown some examples to give you an idea of what you might pay for monthly premiums.

Age Monthly benefit Cover to the age: Deferred period Monthly premium*
30 £1,500 65 4 weeks £35
40 £1,500 65 4 weeks £40
50 £1,500 65 4 weeks £55

*These income protection quotes are based on someone without any additional risks at work and who is a non-smoker without any medical concerns. They should only be used as a general guide.

Which is the best income protection policy in the UK?

Deciding which income protection insurance policy is best for you will depend on how you define ‘best’. Some people may feel the best policy is the cheapest one, others may prefer a policy with added benefits such as hospital cover or a payout if you die, and others still may look at the company with the best claims statistics. To compare income protection policies means looking beyond the cost to the suitability of that insurance for your personal circumstances and the value for money it will provide.

When comparing income protection insurances bear in mind that how much you pay for your policy will depend on a variety of factors including your age, whether you smoke, your medical history, your job, the term of the policy, the deferred period and the benefit amount. Income protection policies that appear to be cheaper could limit key benefits and may even include standard exclusions that prevent the insurance from paying out for common claim reasons.

To ensure you are choosing the best income protection policy for you, it is a good idea to talk to an independent income protection specialist*. An independent income protection specialist will be able to access quotes from all major insurance companies and advise you on the best policy for your own personal circumstances. Additionally, they can help you to complete the application forms as well as help you in the future if you need to make a claim. Simply click on the link above and fill in the short form to get a quote, with no obligation to take things further. If you decide to take out a policy, you could receive up to £100 cashback.

Both those who are employed and those who are self-employed can benefit from taking out income protection insurance. State benefits for those who cannot work due to illness or an accident are low, so having the correct cover in place will ensure you still have an income and can afford to keep paying your mortgage or rent and household bills.

Alternatives to income protection insurance

There are a few alternatives to income protection insurance as we highlight below:

Accident sickness and unemployment (ASU)

This is a short-term policy that will pay out in the event you can’t work due to illness or an accident or if you lose your job. However, it should only be regarded as temporary cover as it will usually only pay out for 12 months. You may have to wait a month before you start receiving your payments. The application usually won't ask about your health so you can assume that most pre-existing conditions will be excluded from the cover but there are usually a fair few standard exclusions to payout as well, making the cover less desirable than income protection insurance.

Mortgage payment protection

This covers your mortgage payments if you become ill or have an accident and can no longer work, or if you are made redundant. Monthly payments only usually last for around one to two years and are usually capped. However, you may be able to choose a policy that will pay out 125% of your mortgage costs so that other bills will also be covered. You will normally need to wait one to three months before you start to receive your benefit. You are usually not covered for pre-existing health conditions and may see standard exclusions for conditions such as back pain and stress, depression and anxiety as these are high on the list of reasons for claims. You should always check the terms and conditions as policies vary in this respect.

Loan protection

This type of insurance is designed to cover your loan repayments if you couldn’t work due to illness, an accident or unemployment. Monthly benefits can last one to two years, but you may also be able to choose a longer-term policy. You will normally have to wait at least a month before you start getting a payout.

Redundancy insurance

This provides cover due to involuntary redundancy and will usually pay you a monthly benefit for up to 12 months. It can be used to help pay your mortgage, other debts or bills and payouts can start immediately or after a deferred period. Be aware it is harder to get redundancy cover if you have been in your role less than six months, you’re over a certain age or if you work part-time.

Critical illness insurance

Critical illness insurance pays a lump sum of money if you are diagnosed with a serious illness that is listed in your policy terms. You may prefer to buy critical illness insurance over income protection insurance if you are only concerned about the diagnosis of serious illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and multiple sclerosis. However, critical illness insurance will usually only pay once and you are not covered after this whereas income protection insurance can be claimed against multiple times during your working life. In fact, most people will find that a combination of both types of illness insurance provides the best solution. You can read more about it in our article, “What is the difference between income protection and critical illness insurance?

Saving the premiums in a savings account

You could even consider putting the amount you’d pay in premiums into a savings account and using this as your income protection. This would save you money on premiums, but there’s a high chance it wouldn’t be enough to cover your bills if you couldn’t work for a while, particularly as savings interest rates are so low. For example, if you put aside £40 a month, even after five years of saving, this would only give you £2,400 (excluding interest).

Does income protection insurance payout for death?

In short, the answer is no, but some more comprehensive policies will pay out a fixed lump sum if you die to help your family cover funeral costs and so on – often up to around £10,000. However, this shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to life insurance (which typically pays out a lump sum if you die within a set term), as it is very unlikely to provide sufficient cover to protect your intended beneficiaries. There is a range of life insurance policy types so it is worth comparing your options carefully. You can read more in our article ‘Best and cheapest life insurance in the UK’.

For many people, it can be worth having both income protection and life insurance to make sure you are fully covered. Find out more about income protection insurance in our article ‘Income Protection – do you really need it?’

 

If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following link can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for the cashback referred to in the article – LifeSearch