03 Mar 2022

Wealth vs health: more than half ignore medical advice and work despite poor health due to financial worries

  • Money worries see six in ten people go to work when ill, according to new poll from Nationwide
  • One in three ignore doctor’s advice due to financial concerns, even when worried about serious illness
  • Three in ten have no financial protection if they were off work while 27% could only last a month
  • But less than three in ten have an income protection policy should they fall ill or become injured
  • Nationwide Injury & Illness insurance can help protect income if off work for four weeks or more

Sick and injured Brits are forcing themselves back into work, despite doctors’ advice, due to having no financial protection in place, reveals new research by Nationwide Building Society.

The poll1, which surveyed more than 2,000 people who are self-employed or receive Statutory Sick Pay, highlighted that nearly six in ten (59%) people had gone to work when ill or injured.

Furthermore, nearly a third (32%) admitted to not following their doctor’s advice because they couldn’t afford to take time off, while 43 per cent would put off going to the doctors due to financial concerns - even if concerned they may have a serious illness.

Nationwide’s research highlights that while nearly half (49%) say they would benefit from a policy that would cover their income if off work for an extended period, just 27 per cent actually have any income protection cover in place, with 32% unaware of what such a policy is.

Money worries can have a negative impact on people’s mental wellbeing, with nearly two thirds (64%) of those surveyed saying they fret about how they would cope financially if they needed to take four weeks or more off work due to poor health.

Three in ten (30%) surveyed have nothing in place to support them financially should they be ill or injured, while 29 per cent would rely on Statutory Sick Pay, which at £96.35 per week for up to 28 weeks, pays much less than many people need to cover the cost of living, which continues to rise.  

If on long term sick and on a reduced income, many would use their existing savings (45%), make reduced payments (33%), or borrow money from family or friends (25%) or use a credit card or loan (15%). However, during the pandemic a third (34%) of people had already dipped into their savings, meaning they may now have less to fall back on. As a result of this situation, more than half (55%) admit they could only survive for three months, while more than a quarter (27%) would struggle after just one month.

The additional financial pressures of being off sick for four weeks of more could push people to prioritise their household expenditures. The top five things’ people surveyed prioritise include utilities (67%), mortgage/rent (65%), food (56%), insurance i.e.  (car/home/pet (15%) and internet/broadband (13%).

As well as the immediate impact of long-term sickness, many people are also concerned about the longer-term financial impacts, with almost half (49%) of those surveyed saying they worry about the impact on their ability to get credit in future. This is particularly an issue for the self-employed, where 43 percent worry about losing clients and just over a third (36%) worry that their business would have to fold.

Nationwide’s Illness and Injury insurance is designed to protect the income of people without comprehensive sick pay at work, such as those who are self-employed or employed on zero hours contracts who are most impacted as if they don’t work, they don’t get paid.

The insurance is available to UK adults aged between 18 and 55 who are employed or self-employed working a minimum of 16 hours per week. Members can apply for the insurance, which is underwritten by Legal & General, online in a few simple steps.

Members can choose to insure how much they would need to cover their bills up to 60 per cent of their gross income and up to a maximum of £2,000 per month (£24,000 per annum) if they are unable to work. In the event of a claim, the policy would pay out monthly after four-weeks for a maximum of 12 months. Industry research highlights that many people feel that the cover would be expensive but cover of £2,000 a month would cost just £15.50 per month².For those self-employed for less than 12 months, or not in paid employment at the time of claiming, a reduced maximum benefit may apply³.

Jason Hurwood, Director of Protection, Investments and Insurance at Nationwide Building Society, said: “When you are off work due to an illness or injury, worries about how you are going to pay your bills can make an already stressful situation worse. So much so, that many are finding themselves in the very difficult position of having to put the need to earn money over their health by continuing to go to work, even when advised not to by a doctor. Worse still, financial concerns mean some are avoiding seeing their GP altogether, even when concerned they may have a serious illness.

“With no money put aside, many would fall into financial difficulty straight away and most would start feeling the strain after just three months. Very few opt for income protection insurance, particularly the self-employed and those who get little or no sick pay from their employers, because of concerns about the cost or even just a lack of awareness that it exists. We want to raise awareness of the options available because it could provide real peace of mind that they would continue to receive an income should they need to be off work due to illness or injury for four weeks or more. By having an income protection policy in place, people can instead put their focus on where it should be, their recovery.”

- Ends -

Notes to editors

1 Survey conducted by Censuswide between 10-14 February of 2,003 people who are self-employed or employed but receive Statutory Sick Pay when off work through illness or injury.

² £2k benefit per month based on 30-year-old, non-smoker, office worker equates to monthly payment of £15.50.

³ For those that are self-employed for less than 12 months when needing to claim, who had no prior employment before becoming self-employed, the monthly benefit may need to be restricted to 35 per cent of gross earnings, up to £24,000 a year.