NHS Enhanced Sick Pay Ends
During the early days of the pandemic, the NHS introduced enhanced sick pay measures to ensure staff unable to work due to contracting Covid-19 would receive full pay regardless of their length of service. However, as of September 2022 these provisions have now ended and NHS employees will now receive their standard, contractual sick pay.
The move has been widely criticised, with the British Medical Association (BMA) condemning the action and calling for a revised compensation scheme for doctors suffering from long Covid. In their recent report “Addressing the challenge of long Covid” the BMA cites a study of health care workers who contracted Covid-19 during the first wave. 32% of those were still struggling to cope with persistent symptoms 3–4 months following the peak of the wave.
Doctors Refused Disability Benefits
Highlighting the potential financial impact of long Covid for Doctors, in June 2022, the Guardian exposed how UK doctors with long Covid claimed to have been turned down for disability benefits. The article focuses predominantly on how a non-means-tested benefit to help those suffering with chronic illness known as “Personal Independence Payment” (PIP) is almost impossible to obtain. This is despite the claimants’ having various debilitating symptoms which clearly would prevent them from carrying out their profession.
One of the Doctors interviewed expressed that they were about to be forced into selling their house as a result of the financial distress they had faced. This is, of course, a very desperate scenario which begs the question “How much is PIP benefit?”. According to www.gov.uk/pip, at the time of writing this article (October 2022), the maximum PIP is just £156.90 per week. For most families, that’s unlikely to cover food and bills, let alone mortgage repayments. It certainly isn’t an income that could be relied upon for any length of time.
With the current cost of living crisis and a faltering UK economy creating financial headwinds, it is arguable that any calls from the BMA to reinstate enhanced sick pay will go unanswered. More likely, the government will point to the fact that the NHS already provides up to six months full pay and six months half pay to staff off sick depending on their length of service. In comparison to employee benefits available in the private sector, these are certainly generous terms.
High Risk Locums
However, one group that remains particularly at risk is the ever-increasing number of Locum Doctors and GPs. As the BMA highlights in the report, “as self-employed doctors, locums are not entitled to SSP (unless agreed with the provider)”.
Whilst working as a Locum can be financially more rewarding, the freedom of self-employment is also likely to bring a complete loss of employee benefits. Thankfully, for the 17,000 plus self-employed Locum Doctors and GPs in the UK, this is something that can be addressed immediately with Income Protection Insurance.
Income Protection for Locum GPs & Doctors
Income Protection Insurance for Locum Doctors or GPs can be set up to provide a benefit of up to 65% of your income should you be unable to work due to sickness or as the result of an accident or injury.
With benefit payments indexed linked to the Retail Price Index (RPI) and payable up until your normal retirement age, the benefits paid out can be considerable. For example;
A 40 year old on £150k p/a would receive a maximum benefit of £97,500 every year until the age of 65. However, since the benefit is linked to the RPI, the final year’s benefit would be almost £315k per annum based on a RPI of 5%. This equates to a Total Lifetime Benefit of over £4.5m for a premium of less than £135 per month which, if you operate as a limited company can be offset against tax!
Under what circumstances will an Income Protection Insurance Policy cover Covid / long Covid for Health workers?
Whether an income protection policy will cover Covid or Long Covid depends very much on when the policy was taken out and the individual insurer. Policies that started pre-Covid are very unlikely to have any specific exclusions that would prevent the insured party from making a claim as a result of suffering from Covid. However, when Covid first hit, many policies were amended and blanket exclusions came into force for new policies. More recently, since the beginning of 2022, many insurers have begun to relax these exclusions. As ever with Income Protection, the best advice can only be provided on a case-by-case basis and with the most up-to-date information. For a more comprehensive answer, we recommend that you speak with a whole-of-market insurance broker such as Black Lion Insurance to ensure you have all the information required to make an informed decision.
How much does Income Protection cost for Locum Doctor’s & GPs?
Calculating the exact cost of Income Protection Insurance considers aspects such as age, health and whether the individual smokes or not. Additionally, monthly premiums will differ considerably depending on the length of the deferment period. The deferment period is chosen by the policy holder and determines how long after the beginning of a claim it is before the insurance provider will start to pay out monthly cheques.
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 6 months.