11 min Read
25 Jun 2018

Written by Marc

Marc Shoffman is a leading finance journalist who specialises in personal finance, property and small business.

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What is keyman insurance – How much is it and who should get it?

What is keyman insuranceThere is plenty you can do to protect employees in the workplace, but could your business survive if a key staff member or director was no longer around?

That is where keyman insurance kicks in.

What is keyman insurance?

Everyone is used to health and safety at work. There are plenty of warning signs that tell you to look out for hazards, cones warning you if the floor is wet and easy access to first aid boxes in the office.

A business can’t survive without its staff, but there are extra measures that can be taken beyond health and safety.

Research by Legal & General claims almost half of businesses would fail if a key person in the company dies or becomes critically ill. There is no warning sign you can put up for that, but a firm could set up a form of business protection called keyman insurance (also known as keyman cover).

This helps a business cover any potential lost profits, loan repayments or the cost of replacing a staff member or director who is crucial to their operation. This could be someone who is key to project development or who acquires new customers and has an ongoing relationship with them.

What does keyman insurance cover?

A key staff member is typically defined as someone who is crucial to the financial success of a company. This can be hard to define, but it could be the business founder or someone who sets the company strategy, or even the top salesman or someone with niche but crucial skills.

Like a life insurance policy, it pays out if that person or a group of people that are covered, pass away. The payout is then used to cover the costs of finding a replacement or to replace lost profits.

You may also be required to take out keyman insurance cover as a form of business loan protection when getting a bank loan. This gives a lender reassurance as the keyman insurance will cover repayment of the debt if a person who is deemed crucial to the firm is no longer around.

Keyman insurance doesn’t just have to cover death of a crucial staff member or director. It can also provide a payout in the event of an eligible critical illness or long-term disability that means an important person can no longer work. There is also a keyman income protection insurance option that will help fund the salary and temporary replacement of a key person who needs time off work due to an eligible condition.

In the case of critical illness, long-term disability, and income protection, insurers may have exemptions so you would need to check what the policy actually covers before taking it out.

How does keyman insurance work?

If you have taken out life cover for yourself, you will already be familiar with how keyman insurance works.

The premium for key worker protection is calculated based on age, health and lifestyle, but it is actually the business, rather than the individual insured, that pays the premiums. Additionally, the business is the keyman insurance beneficiary, so it will receive any payout.

The price of the policy will depend on how long it is taken out for (the term) as well as the level of cover. The amount of protection taken is usually calculated by either a multiple of the person’s salary or how much profit or turnover they create and how long it could take to recover. Alternatively, some businesses may look at the direct costs of a replacement such as finding new staff, paying a salary and how long it would take to replace the lost revenue.

Is keyman insurance tax deductible?

Similar to any expenses, one of the most common questions businesses ask is whether keyman life insurance is tax deductible?

The broad principles on whether an employer can deduct keyman insurance premiums are more than 70 years old, having been outlined in 1944 by the then chancellor Sir John Anderson.

He pointed out that all cases will be different but said the sole relationship between the business and the key person must be that of an employer and employee. A shareholder can be covered, but the premium can only be claimed as an expense if they don’t have a “significant” holding. This is typically deemed at less than 5% but may be open to interpretation by the taxman. Additionally, the plan can only be tax deductible if it is used to cover lost profits and must be a form of term insurance covering someone only while working at the business rather than a whole of life policy.

This means the keyman insurance premium is not tax deductible if it is covering other aspects such as a business loan.

Tax treatment of a keyman insurance policy payout can also be unclear. Generally, if you got the tax relief on the premiums then the payout will be taxed as it will be used to boost your business profits, ultimately pushing up your corporation tax liability.

If the business didn’t get the relief on premiums, then it is likely that the payout will be treated as capital rather than profit in the business, so won’t be taxable.

As usual everything is down to HMRC’s own interpretation so it is best to check with HMRC or an accountant.

When should you consider keyman insurance?

Keyman insurance benefits the whole firm as it provides continuity.

There are plenty of times to consider keyman insurance. It is important when starting out as your firm may be reliant on a key group of talented individuals to help it grow, or more established firms may need staff with a particular skillset.

Staff are the greatest asset a business has. Losing an important person in a firm may not just hit profits but could also cause uncertainty and make others want to leave.

Small businesses in particular may have an influential founder whose departure could mean a loss of ideas and leadership, while firms of all sizes may have a salesperson responsible for bringing in most profit or someone with extra technical skills that can’t be easily replaced.

Ultimately, keyman insurance helps alleviate periods of uncertainty and ensures a business can continue to operate both financially and culturally even if it loses an important staff member. For many, that should be in the business plan from day one.

How much does key man insurance cost?

The cost of keyman insurance will vary across providers.

The amount your business pays in keyman insurance premiums will depend, similar to life insurance, on the person being insured as well as the level of cover or benefits.

You will need to work out how much profit will be lost, how much it will cost to find a replacement and any other potential losses to the business.

The more cover you have, the more it will cost. You also have to consider the risk of the person leaving the firm as you then will have paid premiums for a policy you will never use. In this situation, the insured individual can usually takeover the product and manage it themselves.

There are lots of factors to think about when finding the right keyman insurance such as knowing who to cover, how much and how long for, and that is even before you consider the tax liability.

As with any financial product, keyman insurance providers will have a variety of rates. It is therefore important to shop around for a keyman insurance quote.

Compare keyman insurance

It's important to speak to a competent protection specialist to find the most suitable keyman insurance policy for you and your company. MoneytotheMasses has vetted the service of an independent protection specialist that provides an excellent service that has been rated 4.9 out of 5 stars by customers via reviews.co.uk. As a first step, you can compare keyman insurance costs via their website (using the link) and get a quote with no obligation on your part.

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