Opinion & Analysis
The importance of cover for women by Kara Gammell
08 Mar 2021
Ask any parent about how we protect our children, and we’ll spout all the ways that we try our best to keep them safe: car seats, vaccinations, teaching road safety, chopping up grapes – the list is endless.
But how many mothers have taken steps to protect themselves?
Sure, we wear our sun cream, fasten our seatbelt and have stubbed out the cigarettes a long time ago – all often motivated by the sudden sense of responsibility that sets in once your first child is born.
After all, we need to make sure that we are doing our best to ensure that we are around for as long as possible for our little ones, right?
However, it seems that many women – those without children included – are overlooking one of the biggest things we can do to protect your family: insuring our income should we become too ill to work.
Figures from Aegon, the insurer, show that half of all working women in the UK do not have any form of protection in place to replace our income if we became unable to work due to poor health.
Income Protection (IP) is a type of insurance designed to cover you in times of hardship and you’ll receive 50-70% of your salary via regular payments for as long as you need them to keep food on your table and a roof over your head should you be too ill to work.
According to Lifesearch, people dramatically overestimate the amount of state aid we would receive if we get signed off work long term: Statutory Sick Pay is just under £96 a week.
Not exactly enough to cover all your expenses, now is it?
Know your worth
To make matters worse, this protection gap is only going to continue to grow as more women are working – and earning – more than ever before.
What’s more, a growing number of us are the breadwinners in our household – 51 per cent according to Aegon stats
It’s not uncommon in this day and age for both genders under one roof to be contributing either partially or wholly to the costs involved in living there, however, there is a big difference in relation to who is taking out income protection: research from Active Quote shows that just 35 per cent of women take out cover compared to 65 per cent men.
To add insult to injury, many women, especially those of us who are mothers, underestimate our financial value of their role within the household.
Figures from Scottish Widows shows that almost a quarter of women admit that the reason that they’ve not taken out income protection is because it’s not a financial priority or they don’t think they need it.
However, it seems that women are less likely to take out income protection than men due to a traditional mindset, where men are perceived to be the main breadwinners and women’s income is regarded as less important.
“Women still shoulder an enormous amount more caring work than their male counterparts,” said Gemma Harle, managing director at Quilter.
“Whether it is caring for elderly relatives or new members of the family, the ONS worked out that women carry out an overall average of 60% more unpaid work than men.”
Gemma points out that because people often get some form of financial protection cover from their employer and women are more likely to take career breaks to take on the lion’s share of caring, we are missing out on this workplace benefit.”
“If the worst was to happen it can leave a family in a difficult financial position at the worst possible time,” she says.
“Making sure that both the primary carer in a family and the primary earner both have financial protection is very important.”
But even in a two-income family – even those who are divorced – the loss of either parent would have extremely serious implications.
Parents depend on each other in all sorts of ways that go beyond earning an income and paying the bills.
In many cases, the surviving parent would have to leave their full-time job to care for the kids or if they choose to continue to work, the extra childcare needed would become very expensive.
According to the latest CORAM Family and Childcare survey, the monthly cost of part-time nursery care for a child under the age of two in England an average of £131.61 per week.
To add insult to injury, according to ONS data, on average, women do 26 hours a week of unpaid work such as childcare and cooking, compared with the 16 hours completed by men.
If you are in any doubt of the amount of unpaid work that you are contributing to your household, the Office for National Statistics has a handy calculator that will show you just what your efforts are worth.
Check it out, the results may surprise you: https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/earningsandworkinghours/articles/womenshouldertheresponsibilityofunpaidwork/2016-11-10
Now, how would you cover the costs to hire someone if you were unable to do those chores, childcare and cooking?
How much income protection do you need?
The good news is that there is a way to protect your income should you develop health problems and it’s easier – and more affordable – than you might think.
Policies are priced according to your age, general health and the amount you want to receive if you must make a claim.
A good rule of thumb should be enough to pay any bills and provide money so your family will be financially secure.
As well as your mortgage, rent or loan commitments, you must include those everyday essentials such as council tax, utility bills and the weekly food shop. Fail to do so and you could still end up in debt trying to meet your other commitments.
Like any insurance, it is crucial that you shop around before you purchase a policy.
Never assume that your bank or broker will offer you the best deal as many are usually tied to just one provider and can be very expensive.
Also bear in mind that we are all living longer so it is crucial to think past traditional retirement age or your mortgage term when taking out a protection policy to ensure that you don’t come up short.
Be completely honest in your answers to all the questions on the application, for example your medical history, otherwise the policy could be worthless.
You might feel that you are over sharing, but if you hold something back it could really affect whether the insurer pay out in the event of a claim.