At a time when our cash strapped Government are urging people to stand on their own two feet and not to rely on the State to provide, those who can, are considering their options. The greatest concern for people in both the public and private sector is unemployment and how to cope financially if are out of work. For those with only limited savings to fall back on, because of the pitifully low level of state benefits, a private provision to top these up has become a priority. The UK insurance industry has responded with several products people can buy directly on-line to meet this need.
Unemployment Protection Insurance is designed to enable the customer to continue repaying their debts, such as mortgages, loans and credit cards, if they have to stop working due to accident, sickness or unemployment. The BBC reported on 22 November 2010 that some people are putting their homes at risk 'due to 600 debts.' This is both frightening and so easily avoided by anyone who has the foresight to grab themselves an Unemployment Insurance policy when it is available to them.
But there is a problem. Many people only think about buying an insurance policy to cover their debts and other living expenses when it is too late. This is because, when taking out the policy, they must be able to truthfully state that they did not expect to be unable to work. Otherwise the Insurance Company would have every right to refuse to pay. So, if a firm or organisation has not made any announcements about laying people off, it is well their employees giving serious thought to this right now.
The better Unemployment Protection Insurance policies will offer a route for the customer to purchase the type of cover that is best value for them. In this regard, it is worth noting, that covering mortgage repayments and a small amount of household expenses each month is usually much cheaper than asking for, say, 1000 monthly benefit that is not linked to any particular repayments. The later is the province of short term Income Protection Insurance, good, but rarely the cheapest to buy.
How much cover?
Anyone thinking about Unemployment Insurance should consider how they would cope if their income stopped or was reduced due to accident, sickness or unemployment. They must look at their own financial circumstances, including any other insurance cover or savings they already have. The great majority of people taking out this cover know they could cope if they were out of work for a month or two*. However, if this stretched out to six or eight months, they would be in deep trouble.
Savings can meet every day expenses such as food and fuel for quite a while, provided the weight of large monthly bills (typically mortgage repayments, rent or loans) can be shouldered by an Unemployment Protection Insurance policy. Therefore this is usually the money saving approach that most people take when selecting their benefits, they buy a policy that will pay their important bills until they are back at work.
Who can apply?
These policies are offered to anyone over 18 and under 65 who live and work in the UK. Usually this cover can also be bought by people who are part time (working at least 16 hours a week) as well as the self-employed or individuals on fixed-term contracts,
What is covered?
This insurance pays the policyholder the sum they choose each month as a monthly benefit for up to a year or until they go back to work. It is possible to buy a policy that pays out for up to 2 years, however as the average spell of unemployment at this time is up to about 8 months*, most opt for a cheaper 12 month policy. It is possible to claim more than once a year on this type of insurance.
What is not paid?
Unemployment Insurance will not cover any medical conditions the person knew about at the start
of their policy. The insurers also exclude pregnancy or any absence due to self harm. In respect of unemployment, these policies will not pay out if the policyholder resigns or accepts voluntary redundancy. Equally, no payment will be made if the person loses their job due to doing something that breaks the conditions of their employment contract (e.g. misconduct or theft).
For unemployment benefits to be paid, most insurers impose a deferment period. This usually means that the policy has to be in force 90 or 120 days (providers vary) before the policyholder can claim.
Easy to cancel
Premiums are usually collected monthly by direct debit and if the policyholder decides they don't need the cover any more, they can simply cancel their direct debit. This will end the policy immediately and without penalty.
In a world where future employment prospects are uncertain, for anyone who does not have enough saved to meet their bills for six months to a year out of work, this cover is certainly worth serious consideration. For the lowest prices look for the specialist providers on-line.
To avoid the hard sell from tele-sales brokers, it is wise to only get quotes from companies who will give an indicative price before the applicant has to complete their telephone number. There are some that purport to be comparison web sites to induce the customer to complete their contact details. These are then immediately sold on to a company with commission driven sales agents who don't take no for an answer!
Dennis Haggerty from specialist i:protect insurance commented, "Expect to pay 20 to 40 per month for a policy that pays out 1000 per month if you are unable to work. It is important to note, unlike car insurance, Unemployment Insurance costs progressively more as you get older. This has come about because it is proving much harder for the over 50's to find work and health issues become worse with age, both have pushed up prices"
Unemployment Insurance may not suit everyone. However it is a good value option for young families and individuals who would rapidly find themselves in serious debt if they were out of work for any length of time. The key is not to delay applying for this insurance until an employer raises redundancy concerns. By then it will be too late for employees to cover themselves in respect of any job losses that may occur.
*Industry data from Financial Services Forum Oct 2010.
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