If you find yourself unable to work for a spell due to illness or an accident, or are made redundant from your job, income protection insurance (IPI) can be a lifeline. But what if you make a claim only to discover your policy doesn’t quite offer the cover you expected?

Income protection can help you pay your mortgage or rent, meet loan obligations, pay bills and maintain your lifestyle while you are unable to work or look for a new role. Your occupation, employment status and health all play a part in determining the best policy for you, and how much it costs.

Policies can differ quite widely depending on the provider and your lifestyle, but there are some common income protection exclusions that are useful to know about - before it comes to making a claim, that is! These include:

  1. Pre-existing and chronic conditions that you knew about before taking out the income protection policy. Each policy is individually underwritten based on your own personal circumstances and it’s important to reveal all relevant details - or you could risk invalidating the cover.
  2. Pregnancy. Normal pregnancies and natural childbirth are not covered by most IPI policies, although some insurers offer cover for pregnancy-related complications.
  3. Illness resulting from a failure on your part to follow medical advice, or that’s self-inflicted.
  4. If you live outside of the UK. Specialist ex-pat and international income protection is available but UK-based policies require that you’re a permanent resident here. Many will also expect you to have been registered with a GP for at least two years.
  5. Mental health issues. Many income protection policies won’t cover you if you need to take time off due to stress, anxiety or depression. Wellbeing organisation Mind has a really useful guide to mental health and insurance, and it also offers advice on your legal rights at work and what to do if you feel you’re being discriminated against.
  6. Back complaints. Like mental health, many income protection policies don’t cover this.
  7. If you’re partly responsible for losing your job. Just as redundancy insurance doesn’t kick in if you opt to take redundancy voluntarily, your insurer is unlikely to pay out if your behaviour at work leads directly or indirectly to your dismissal.
  8. The exclusion period. Many policies have an initial period within which you can’t make a claim. This tends to be between 90 and 120 days and, in some cases, is longer.

The good news is you don’t have to be in long-term, permanent employment to be eligible for income protection insurance. Policies are available for contract workers on short contracts, seasonal and casual workers and self-employed people, but note that, in the event of a claim, you would need proof of your income.

Some policies also enable you to suspend cover for a defined period, such as if you take a career break, for example. As with all types of insurance, it’s important to read the ‘key features’ document carefully to make sure you know what’s covered and what isn’t, or have a chat with one of our advisors, who can explain things clearly to you.

As an independent and unbiased insurance broker, we work with a panel of leading insurers. We compare income protection insurance online as well as offering free and impartial advice over the phone, helping you switch income cover or find the right policy for your circumstances smoothly.