Doctors, surgeons and other medical professionals are not immune from illness or injury and it is important that they protect themselves against the financial impact of not being able to work. Fortunately, some Income Protection providers offer special benefits specifically for certain medical professionals with their plans. This week, we explore these features to see which insurer offers the best perks.

One such perk that some insurers offer is matching benefit payments to the NHS sick pay scheme. NHS employee sick pay varies depending on length of service. The table below shows how long employees will be offered full and half pay depending on their length of service:

(Source: https://www.nhsemployers.org/tchandbook/part-3-terms-and-conditions-of-service/section-14-sickness-absence-england)

This sick pay structure complicates income protection advice as advisers do not know if or when a client may claim on their policy. If, for example, a claim was made in the client’s first year of service with the NHS their immediate requirement is a split deferred period of 1 and 3 months. If the client needs to claim in their 4th year of service however, the split deferred periods should be 5 and 10 months.

As such NHS staff, and those with sick pay schemes that mirror the NHS, require an Income Protection plan where the deferred period changes in line with their length of service. Fortunately, there are a number of insurers that offer this.

Over the last few years this has been limited to doctors and surgeons, however in recent times insurers such as LV= and Vitality have extended their offering to other NHS staff and public sector occupations such as teachers.  The table below shows the insurers that offer to match alternative sick pay schemes and the occupations this relates to:

As can be seen, LV= also extend their sick pay guarantee to private school teachers, doctors, surgeons and dentists that are employed privately whose sick pay scheme matches that of public schools or the NHS. Providing the doctors, surgeons and dentists are registered with General Medical Council or General Dental Council and are licenced to practice in the UK they will be eligible.

LV= and Zurich take their offerings for doctors and surgeons further by increasing their minimum benefit guarantees. The table below shows how their benefit guarantees for doctors and surgeons contrast to their standard offerings:

*Other insurers do offer a minimum benefit guarantee; however this is not increased for doctors and surgeons from their standard offerings.

Interestingly across insurers, the minimum number of hours a doctor or surgeon is required to work per week to qualify for the minimum benefit guarantee is the same as other occupations for all providers except LV= and Vitality. Both insurers have actually increased the minimum from what they offer other “standard” occupations meaning that in order to qualify for the increased benefit they are required to work longer.

Aviva, LV= and Zurich go one step further, offering cover during a sabbatical break on certain occupations. This allows clients in qualifying occupations to take an employer agreed sabbatical of up to 1 year for Aviva and Zurich, and 2 years for LV= while still being treated as if they were working full time.

In general, If the insured person becomes incapacitated while on sabbatical the benefit payable will be calculated based on earnings received 12 months before the sabbatical was taken. For the benefit to be paid the insured person will usually be required to prove their employer approved their sabbatical and held a position for them to return to in a similar role.

 

Both Aviva and LV= will allow the client to take multiple sabbatical breaks throughout the term of the contract, however they require the client to be back in work for at least 12 months before another break is taken. Zurich only cover the client for one sabbatical break during the policy. The maximum time a client can take as a sabbatical is 12 months for both Aviva and Zurich, and 24 months for LV=.

 

Overall, Vitality and LV= appear to offer the best cover for medical professionals and select public occupations. They are somewhat unique in being the only two insurer who offer their NHS sick pay guarantee to dentists and professionals not directly employed by the NHS. Also, LV=’s increased minimum benefit guarantee and sabbatical break cover would be a valuable benefit for doctors and surgeons.

 

Aviva are commendable as they are the only provider to offer their NHS sick pay benefit to both nurses and midwives. Zurich should also be commended for increasing their minimum benefit guarantee for doctors and surgeons while maintaining a low working hours requirement.

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