Sick pay: the options for freelancers

Leif Kendall


PillsIf you’re a freelancer, you’re not automatically entitled to sick pay. So don’t get sick.

But what if you’re not well enough to work? A serious illness or injury could prevent you from working for a period of weeks or months. You might have enough savings to ride out short gaps in work, but how long before your savings dry up?

In the UK, ‘workers‘ get sick pay, but freelancers and the self-employed do not. So what are your options?

Government benefits

Freelancers and the self-employed can apply for Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) if they are too sick to work. After completing a Work Capability Assessment at your nearest job centre, you may be entitled to £72.40 a week, or £290 a month. The precise amount you can receive depends on your circumstances. And it is worth noting that your partner’s income – or your savings – may render you ineligible. If your claim is ongoing, you’ll have to continue jumping through the Kafkaesque assessment hoops at regular intervals.

I can imagine that this process would be depressing, stressful and dehumanising – and probably the last thing you need when you’re not well. You can expect a great deal of hassle for a benefit that probably won’t cover your basic living costs.

Insuring yourself

Getting sick sucks. And the misery of being ill and unable to do your job is likely to be compounded by bills that you can’t pay, or savings that rapidly dwindle. So it’s worth considering making your own provision for sick pay. And the good news is that you have options.

Income protection insurance

With income protection insurance you can essentially choose how much money you would want each week if you’re not well enough to work, and then pay the corresponding monthly premium. I have an income protection policy with Holloway Friendly (in the region of £25 a month). I haven’t ever used the policy (and I really hope I never have to) so I can’t really recommend it, but it’s reassuring to know I have some financial protection if I get sick.

Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) offers a number of ‘business interruption’ financial benefits as part of the IPSE Plus membership package (just under £25 a month including VAT). If you’re ill or injured for three works or more, you could claim up to £2,000.

Protect yourself

Income protection insurance isn’t a glamorous purchase, but for something like £25 a month you could have the peace of mind that if you have to take time off work due to ill health, you’ll still have a reasonable level of income.

Do you have any form of income protection? Or have you ever applied for Employment Support Allowance? Leave a comment to share your experiences of taking time off for health reasons when you’re self-employed.


4th March 2016

Charlote Fleming

Your article spurred me to investigate the options for someone approaching their 61st birthday, and I was astonished and dismayed to discover there’s only one company that insures people over the age of 65. So much for consumer choice! It does at least offer cover from day 1 of any illness or injury. With an ageing population and many people having to work longer due to poor pension provision, it seems strange that only one insurer has opted to cover that section of the market.

17th August 2018

Catherine Sempill

Howdy. The Hot Copy Podcast covers this in quite a lot of detail as well. (Just to bump up the inspiration options) Glad this subject is getting coverage!

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