Without access to worker’s compensation and other employee sick leave benefits in Australia, you’ll need to find another way to pay the bills you’re sick or injured. Luckily, from less than $3* a day, you can replace up to 85% of your regular income and use it to keep your business running, put food on the table and pay your bills.
Compare income protection for self-employed workers & get quotes
Some common questions our self-employed users have
Can I get cover?
The great news is that you can get income protection in most cases. If you’re occupation isn't excluded then you are generally covered as long as you work at least 20 hours per week. We looked at 10 common self-employed occupations to understand how an insurer may consider them:
How it's interpreted by an insurer
You can get cover but your premium may be increased. Certain types of carpenters roles will attract a greater increase in premiums e.g. carpet layers.
Standard occupation, eligible for cover.
Standard occupation, eligible for cover.
Standard occupation, eligible for cover.
You can get cover but your premium will most likely be increased. Certain types of truck drivers could be uninsurable e.g. Long distance truck drivers.
You can get cover but your premium may be increased. Certain types of plumbing jobs will attract a greater increase in premiums e.g. if you work on a roof.
You can get cover but your premium may be increased for certain industries e.g. construction.
You can get cover but your premium will most likely be increased. Certain types of engineers could be insurable e.g. Marine engineers.
You can get cover but your premium may be increased.
You can get cover but your premium may be increased.
In most cases it's standard occupation, eligible for cover. There are some cases where your premiums would increase e.g. Lawnmower sales, deliverables.
How much cover can I get?
Income protection insurance usually covers up to 85% of your regular income. If you don’t know exactly what your income will be for the year then insurers will let you tell them how much you want covered. At claim time you'll need to confirm your income however with proof.
What can I use income protection for?
Income protection generally replaces up to 75% or 85% of your regular income. Payments can be used to:
Keep your business running
Pay the bills of the household
Put food on the table
Help with expenses relating to your care and recovery
What are the key benefits of getting income protection?
Ongoing salary when you can’t work. If you find yourself unable to work because of illness or injury, you can rest easy knowing that you will receive up to 75% or 85% of your income.
Cover for business expenses. If you are a small business owner, you will also have the security of knowing you will be able to keep your business running, particularly if you add business expenses cover to your policy. This takes care of fixed expenses such as office rent, staff salaries, utility bills and even hiring a replacement in your absence.
Additional payment while you recover. Depending on the policy, you may have coverage for additional costs such as rehabilitation expenses, additional benefits for specified injuries and the cost of hiring a professional nurse. This gives you one less thing to stress about and lets you focus on getting better and back to work faster.
Premiums may be tax-deductible. Other benefits of income protection insurance include the ability to recoup some of your premium costs by claiming them back on your tax and being able to fund your IP cover through your superannuation.
Do you qualify for income protection insurance?
Generally, to qualify for income protection you'll meet the following requirements:
You're aged between 18-65
Carry out at least 20 hours of work each week
Have been working in the same occupation for at least 12 months before taking out cover
You're an Australian resident
Can self-employed contract workers get income protection?
Yes, you can generally find cover provided you work at least 20 hours per week and have held the position for at least 12 months.
It's worth comparing options with an adviser to find out what cover options are available.
Workers compensation for self-employed?
Workers' compensation protects an employee if they suffer an injury or illness in the workplace and covers costs such as:
Medical and hospital expenses
A lump sum payment for death or permanent disability
Self-employed workers don't qualify for workers' compensation in Australia. To be eligible for workers' compensation, you must be in a contract of employment with another person or company. It's the employer who is required by law to take out insurance on behalf of their employees. Because you work for yourself and are your own employer, you're not eligible for workers' compensation, which is why having income protection insurance is so important.
What is considered income for self-employed workers?
Most insurance companies recognise the income for self-employed workers as the income generated by their business or practice through their own personal exertion or activities. This is the case for a self-employed worker, a working director or partner in a partnership. Income does not include:
Should you get agreed value or indemnity value cover?
When choosing an income protection policy, you'll need to consider how your benefit will be determined that is: agreed value or indemnity value. The type of policy you choose will vary depending on your circumstances. Basically, the two types can be described as follows:
Agreed value cover. Agreed value is where your income is verified and agreed upon by you and the insurer at the time of taking out your policy. This means you will know from day one what benefit amount you will receive, regardless of any future fluctuations in your income.
Indemnity value cover. Indemnity value is where your income is verified at the time of making a claim. That means if it has gone down for any reason since you applied for cover, the lesser amount is what your benefit will be calculated on.
As self-employed workers can be more prone to fluctuations in income, taking indemnity value cover can be risky, as there is a real possibility that your income could have been reduced in the lead up to making a claim, meaning you will receive a lesser benefit than you may need to cover your expenses.
For this reason, many self-employed workers opt for the security of agreed value cover, even though it's around 20% more expensive. Some insurers have countered this trend by making indemnity value cover more attractive to the self-employed. They do this by reviewing the insured’s income history over the past three years at the time of making a claim and choosing the 12 months in which they received the most income to calculate the benefit.
As well as deciding on agreed or indemnity value cover, another important consideration is whether to pay stepped or level premiums.
Stepped premiums. Stepped premiums start out cheaper (calculated on your age at each policy anniversary date) and get progressively more expensive as you get older.
Level premiums. Level premiums are more expensive in the beginning, but because they remain fixed, they become more affordable as time passes (especially after 8 years or more).
When deciding between stepped and level premiums, you need to consider factors such as your age, your budget and the number of years you plan to be self-employed. If you are young and just starting out and are unsure how long you will be running your business, stepped premiums may be a more attractive proposition because they are cheaper.
On the other hand, if you plan to be in business for the long haul, level premiums might be a better option, as despite their initial higher cost, they can save you a considerable amount of money over time.
Another important consideration with IP cover is timeframes, in other words, what benefit period and waiting period?
Benefit period uncovered
The benefit period is the amount of time you receive payments from your insurer. Benefit periods range from two years (the maximum payable within super) to retirement age. Your choice of benefit period will impact your premiums: the longer the benefit period, the higher the cost. However, choosing a longer waiting period might reduce your premiums.
Waiting period uncovered
Waiting periods vary between 14 days and 2 years, so if you think you can survive on sick pay and savings for three months, opting for a waiting period of 90 days would reduce the cost of your premium by about one-third. It’s important to remember though that benefits are always paid a month in arrears, so you will need to factor that into your choice of waiting period.
Your income protection premiums are normally tax deductible. The ATO views any payment you have made or benefits you have claimed that take the place of your regular income as tax deductible, but you can only claim those expenses that are incurred in the generation of assessable income. Any payments or benefits of a capital, private or domestic nature such as accident, illness or death cover in policies like life, trauma and TPD Insurance are not tax deductible.
The amount you get back will depend on your marginal tax rate and it’s important to bear in mind that even though your premiums are tax-deductible, your monthly benefit payments will be assessed (and taxed) as regular income.
Business expenses insurance: Another option you might want to consider
Business expenses insurance can either be purchased separately or as an additional option on your income protection policy. It covers your fixed business costs while you are off work from injury or illness by paying a monthly reimbursement. This means you can actually focus on your recovery and not mounting debt your business may be facing. Some of the costs that business expenses can help you cover include:
Rent of your office or property that your business uses
Leases on cars and machinery
Staff salaries and superannuation contributions
Building, liability and indemnity insurance
Some other key benefits to consider:
Most business expenses policies will pay up to 100% of your allowable business expenses
Premiums are generally tax-deductible
Locum cover is generally provided to cover cost of hiring a replacement worker
Some policies will offer partial payment, when you are partially injured but still able to work at a reduced capacity
Cover generally provided 24 hours a day, worldwide
Most policies will provide up to 75% (in some cases 85%) of your income to a maximum monthly benefit. The maximum benefit is generally around $10,000. This can vary between insurers, as an example Asteron offers a benefit of up to 80%
Most insurers will require you to work a minimum of 20 hours a week to qualify for cover.
You are generally eligible to resume receiving cover without having to undergo a new waiting period if you start your claim again within six months of having returned to work.
Yes. You can increase or decrease your level of cover at any time. Changes are subject to approval from the insurer.
Most policies will require you to be self-employed for up to 12 months prior to taking out cover.
Insurers' class occupations and the risk they present differently. You may be required to pay a higher premium if you are engaged in a high-risk occupation.
Yes, you can receive other compensation/insurance provided the maximum benefit paid does not exceed 75% of your regular income.
Richard Laycock is Finder's insurance editor, and has spent the last five years wrangling insurance product disclosure statements. His musings about insurance have appeared on Money Mag, Yahoo Finance, and Travel Weekly. When he’s not helping people make sense of insurance fine print, he is testing the quality of cocktails in his newfound home of New York. Richard studied Media at Macquarie University and The Missouri School of Journalism and has a Tier 1 Certification in General Advice for Life Insurance.
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