Income protection for high risk manual workers

Manual workers in high-risk jobs can still get income protection insurance. Here's how.

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Income protection insurance pays a monthly benefit if you're sick or injured and can't work. It's a helpful option for people in heavy-duty physical jobs with greater risks of injury.

But it's harder for these types of workers to get insured. You can still get a good policy, you just need to be aware that:

  • Your policy may cost more
  • The policy may come with more exclusions
  • You may need to combine your policy with other forms of insurance, such as comprehensive cover

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Why do high-risk manual workers need insurance?

Manual workers in high-risk occupations are exposed to many potential dangers. Common injuries include:

  • Cuts and fractures. These acute injuries are common in manual handling jobs.
  • Spinal and muscle injuries. These are considered musculoskeletal disorders and can also include back pain and neck and upper limb injuries.
  • Falls from heights. Many jobs in the construction industry require working at great heights. Falls are a significant danger.
  • Being hit by falling objects. Objects falling from building sites, factories and other workplaces cause many injuries and fatalities each year.

Income protection insurance pays a monthly benefit if you are sick or injured to the point that you cannot work. Typical income protection policies:

  • Pay a monthly benefit to supplement your wage, usually up to 75% of your income.
  • Let you pay for living costs, debts and necessities while you're out of work.
  • Can cover you for injuries and illnesses that occur on the job or off the clock.

What other types of insurance should high-risk workers consider?

Aside from income protection cover, manual workers in high-risk jobs should think about the following policy types:

  • Total and permanent disability insurance. A TPD policy pays a one-off lump sum if you're injured or ill and unable to work. Unlike income protection it isn't designed for long-term support but for one-off, short-term events.
  • Trauma insurance. A trauma policy pays a single lump sum if you're diagnosed for a specified condition covered in your policy.

How do insurance companies classify manual workers?

In the product disclosure statements (PDS) of most insurance providers you will find job classification codes. Higher-risk jobs typically incur extra premium charges, called premium loadings.

Here are some common categories insurers use for manual workers:

ClassificationRisk levelConditions
Blue Collar/ManualMedium
  • This includes certified tradespeople who perform skilled or specialised manual labour
  • May incur premium loading
Heavy Blue Collar/ManualMedium to high
  • This is for workers in heavy manual environments who do non-hazardous work
  • Usually incurs premium loading
High RiskHigh
  • This is for employees in hazardous occupations which present “special difficulties” in assessing the risk for insurance
  • Premium loadings and additional exclusions apply
UninsurableExtremely high
  • This is for the most dangerous jobs, such as navy divers and long-distance truck drivers
  • You cannot be insured and need to seek specialised insurance products for your occupation or industry

To get a better idea of insurability for your particular occupation search for your job type here.

How much do high-risk manual workers have to pay for income protection?

Even two workers with the same job can have very different insurance costs. Insurers consider your age, income and various health factors when setting the cost of your premiums. This includes lifestyle factors like whether you smoke.

Here are some example quotes to give you a basic idea of what workers pay for income protection.

*These are example quotes only based on a 35-year-old male bricklayer in NSW who doesn't smoke. Your actual quotes may vary. Quotes are accurate for June 2017.

If workers' compensation covers me on the job, why should I bother with income protection?

Workers' compensation covers a lot of high-risk manual workers for injuries on the job. But this form of cover has serious limitations. Consider the following when thinking about income protection:

  • Workers' compensation cover is limited to workplace injuries or illnesses. Income protection covers you on and off the job.
  • The rules and payment limits for workers' compensation claims differ widely by state.
  • Income protection covers you for longer-term costs, such as ongoing rehabilitation costs.

Delayed reaction

  • A lot of the injuries associated with manual labour take a long time to appear and might only show up months or years later. This is a problem because workers’ compensation requires proof that you were injured on the job. If the injuries only emerge after you’ve finished or left the job, this can be difficult to prove.

With income protection insurance you still get paid even if you cannot prove that the injury happened at work.

Examples: A bricklayer and a rigger apply for income protection insurance

Man in hard hatBill is a bricklayer. Insurers classify him as “special risk”. This means he can still get income protection insurance, but with special consideration. Bill's insurer asked him for more details about what exactly his job involved, whether he worked on or near roads, at heights, around dangerous materials, and what kind of safety equipment he used.

Because the job was almost entirely heavy lifting, Bill had a high premium. The insurer said that if Bill moved to a less physical and more supervisory role later on he should get in touch to renegotiate his insurance policy.

Workman in hard hatRoger is a rigger. He was turned down by a couple of insurers before finding one that would offer him a policy. The one that did agree to cover him only did so after confirming that he was trained and fully certified to work at heights and had his rigging licence. Even then, he still had a higher premiums and found some insurers would not offer him insurance for injuries on the job.

Because he had good workplace insurance through an industry association, Roger decided to save money and go with a policy that did not cover workplace accidents. With this as an exclusion, Roger had many more options available.

How can high-risk workers shop for the right income protection policy?

When comparing income protection policies there are several factors manual workers need to consider. These include:

  • The benefit period. Income protection benefits won't last forever. Policies have limits. Most policies will pay benefits for two or five years. You need to consider the type of injuries common in your workplace and how long recovery periods can be.
  • The waiting period. A successful income protection claim still requires a waiting period before payments start. Shorter waiting times mean higher premiums. Think about how long you could afford to support yourself without income while also paying medical/rehabilitation costs.
  • Agreed value and indemnity value cover. Manual workers with stable, full-time incomes should consider the cheaper indemnity value cover, which sets your benefit payment to your income at the time of a claim. Agreed value cover is generally better for workers who are casual or self-employed and have fluctuating incomes. While more expensive, agreed value cover lets you set the benefit payment amount. This means you can get a sufficient benefit payment even if you make a claim in a month where you didn't make much money.
  • Stepped and level premiums. Level premiums don’t increase over time. Stepped premiums start lower but rise over time. Read our guide explaining level and stepped premiums.
It never hurts to ask
If you're a high-risk worker it is harder to get the cover you need. A good idea when shopping for income protection insurance is to get in touch with insurers or advisers and get a personalised quote. If you want to modify a policy, feel free to ask the insurer if that’s an option. Many will let you customise a policy to better suit your needs.

Picture: Shutterstock

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