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Pilots left vulnerable after changes to long-term sick pay.

Recent changes to sick pay for pilots have seen an increase in those looking to secure peace of mind with Income Protection insurance.

Paul Bradley

December 7, 2022

Recent changes to pilot long-term sick pay

In September 2021, it was reported that a number of pilots had instigated a law suit against their employer TUI due to major cuts to their long-term sick pay. 

First reported in the Sunday Times, pilots for the FTSE 100 Airline claimed that the company had “concealed the true nature” of changes in a new, post-covid sick pay plan.  

Since the story broke, Black Lion Insurance has seen a notable increase in the number of pilots looking to take direct control of their sick pay and making enquiries for income protection policies. 

Whilst Black Lion Insurance provide specialist income protection for pilots, finding suitable protection is not straightforward. The increase in demand means that insurers are now more particular as to exactly what type of pilots they may cover.

Why is Income Protection so important for pilots? 

Firstly, it is worth considering that the barrier to entry for becoming a pilot is extremely high. The time spent training is considerable and the money required to gain a commercial license is undoubtedly a life-long career investment. That in itself is a very valuable asset and certainly not one you’d want to let go of. 

Once in the air, retaining a license to operate an aircraft is no easy feat, it includes multiple medical tests to determine your physical condition and any additional risk you may pose. 

Then there are the many well-documented hazards associated with being a pilot. It is often regarded as one of the most dangerous jobs due to the variety of health risks that are unique to the role.

Certainly, pilots face a greater number of threats than 99% of other occupations, most of which could prevent them from bringing home an income.

Whilst a handful of employers operate robust sick pay schemes for pilots, unfortunately most do not. This leaves a huge pool of pilots susceptible to financial ruin if they are unable to enact their occupation.

An Income Protection policy for a pilot is likely to cover 65% of their annual income should the policy holder be unable to work due to sickness or as a result of an accident or injury. For pilots, it provides the reassurance that, should they face a period of time where they are unable to fly, their mortgage, bills and living expenses will be taken care of. Depending on the policy, this could cover a pilot right up to retirement age. This means that should a pilot suffer a career ending illness at 44, the policy would make a monthly payout for the next 20 years. 

Why are pilot’s classed as high risk? 

As outlined above, pilots face a greater amount of threats to their health than many other occupations. Some of these threats that can increase the risk for an insurer include;

  • Stress – Whilst pilots are required to be skilled at controlling their stress and staying calm, this doesn’t change the fact that they are still exposed to much higher stress levels than many other vocations. Stress is well known to worsen or increase the risk of suffering a multitude of life-altering diseases. 
  • Jet Lag & Fatigue – Constant travel across different time zones can play havoc with the body’s biological clock (Circadian Rhythm Disruption). However, for pilots this is far more than a simple disruption of sleeping patterns. Couple this with the fatigue caused by long hours, night shifts and schedule disruptions and it doesn’t lay the foundation for the healthiest of lifestyles. Indeed, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is part of the World Health Organisation (WHO), have previously found sufficient evidence that Circadian Disruption is a “probable” carcinogen. 
  • Cosmic and Ultraviolet Radiation – There are numerous reports and studies that have been commissioned to look at the reasons behind increased cancer risk for both military and commercial pilots. Many of these consider the the potential harm caused by higher, extended exposure to Cosmic Ionising Radiation when flying at high altitudes. Whilst this is an area of research that is ongoing, an independent report from the UK’s Industrial Injuries Advisory Council concluded; “There is substantial and consistent evidence that there is more than double the risk of malignant melanoma in pilots and cabin crew and pilots in particular, after 5,000 aggregated hours’ flying time.”

Can pilots still get Income Protection? 

The cover available to you depends primarily on what type of pilot you are. For example, most insurers are more likely to consider a fixed wing pilot operating in the commercial space versus a rotary wing pilot, private flight instructor, crop sprayer or a member of the RAF. 

Acceptance by insurers can be discretionary, with the insurers offering loaded terms to mitigate the increased occupational risk. In summary, it is crucial that pilots speak with a specialist income protection consultant well-versed on the issues affecting pilots. Black Lion Insurance are a whole of market broker and can fully advise as to what policies are currently available to pilots and which are best suited to each individual. 

How much will it cost?

Calculating the exact cost of Income Protection depends on aspects such as age, health, smoking status and when looking at pilots in particular, what type of flying they perform.  Additionally, monthly premiums differ considerably depending on the length of the deferment period which is chosen by the policy holder and determines how long after the beginning of a claim it is before an insurance provider will start paying the monthly support. 

In some recent cases, where cover through traditional means of Income Protection is not available, Black Lion Insurance has still been able to provide more short term solutions such as Accident and Sickness cover that can provide that all important safety net as a cost effective alternative. After all, some protection is always better than none! 

The table below provides an indication of the monthly premium cost for a non-smoker with no underlying health conditions and a deferment period of just 2 months and opting for the maximum benefit available.

However, for an accurate and up-to-date quote that is tailored to your precise needs, please click on the “Request Quotes” button below.

Annual Salary 30 35 40 45
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£50k £108 £137 £181 £248
£80k £167 £210 £271 £390
£100k £208 £262 £338 £487
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