Critical Illness Cover

Give yourself and your family a safety net if you fall ill with critical illness cover.

What is Critical illness cover?

Critical illness cover is a type of insurance policy designed to provide financial support to you and your loved ones if you were diagnosed with a serious illness.

Why you might consider getting critical illness insurance

What would happen if you fell severely ill or had a severe accident? What would be the financial impact if you could not work for an extended period?

You may be in good health today, but you never know what's around the corner. Illness could stop you from working in your current profession, or you could contract a permanent disability. Your employer may support you for the first few months as you recover, but it won't last long-term.

It is there to help support yourself and your family should the worst happen.

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How does critical illness cover work?

Many people add critical illness cover when they buy life insurance. You pay monthly premiums for this add-on alongside your life cover. Your policy contains a specific list of conditions. How many critical illnesses are included on the list depends on how much you pay.

If you're diagnosed with one of these illnesses during your policy term, your insurance company will pay out a tax-free lump sum, which you can use however you choose. For example, you can use it to cover health-related costs.



Compare policies with us, choosing the amount of cover you require.


Start your policy and pay premiums to your provider each month.

Make a claim

Claim if you receive a diagnosis for a condition covered by your policy.

Get better

If your claim is successful, you'll receive a tax-free benefit from your insurer.

Combining critical illness cover with life insurance

In most cases, critical illness policies will cost more than individual life insurance policies. To save money while ensuring you have the right cover in the right places, here's a sequence you can follow:

  1. 1.
    Take out a life insurance policy to cover things such as your mortgage if you were to pass away.
  2. 2.
    Exclude critical illness cover from this life insurance policy. Taking out this type of cover for such a large amount would be very expensive.
  3. 3.
    Then, buy a smaller life insurance policy (for example, £30K) with critical illness cover added. This way, you have some critical illness cover without it being unaffordable.
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A life insurance policy with critical illness cover only pays out once

Another reason to own more than one life insurance policy is that you may need financial support more than once.

Your life insurance policy with critical illness cover added will pay out when you receive your critical illness diagnosis or when you die, not both. So your policy will help during the early stages of your illness. However, your family wouldn't be able to claim again when you pass away.

For example, a smaller life cover policy with critical illness cover added could pay your medical bills, leaving the larger payout to support your dependents after you're gone.

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Critical illness cover vs terminal illness cover

These two types of covers may sound almost identical, but some differences exist.Terminal illness cover is typically part of your life insurance policy, added at no extra cost. It pays when you are diagnosed with an illness which cannot be cured and you have a life expectancy of 12 months or less. You can use that payout to support yourself and your family before you pass away.

Critical illness cover pays out when you get a diagnosis of a severe illness from your insurer's pre-specified list. It primarily supports you and your family because you cannot work. With many of the illnesses on an insurer's list, you could still be able to live a long life.

The similarity between critical and terminal cover is that both types of cover only pay out once. Your life insurance policy automatically ends if your terminal cover pays out.

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Benefits of critical illness cover

Critical illness insurance provides many significant benefits to policyholders. What's the most important to you?

Meet your everyday outgoings

You can use the lump sum critical illness cover pays you to meet your financial commitments such as your mortgage, car insurance payments and childcare costs.

Protect your family's lifestyle

If your family rely on your income for their standard of living, your critical illness insurance policy can help them maintain their lifestyle while you recover.

Get help with your medical costs

Your cover could pay for private medical treatment, allowing you to access healthcare faster and make a speedier recovery.

Step in where your employer can't

If you cannot work, your employer may continue to pay your salary for the first few months. But it won't last forever. Make a critical illness claim to fill the gap.

Because you can't rely on Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Government benefits can support you if you cannot work. However, it's not enough to live comfortably. Make sure you're covered.

Self-employed essentials

If you're self-employed or a company director, you can't collect SSP. Your critical illness cover could be your lifeline if you cannot work.

Look to the future with confidence

It's great for your mental health to know that whatever happens, you and your family will not be in financial trouble. Let your critical illness policy look after you as you get better.

Critical illness cover is tax-efficient

You don't pay tax on your critical illness payout. It's a one-off tax-free lump sum. You do not have to declare your payout on your tax return.

Useful optional extras

Critical and life insurance providers may offer optional extras to your policy, including a premium waiver or children's critical illness cover. Check your policy documents carefully.
Compare the UK's leading life and critical illness providers and find the best policy for the best price.

What does critical illness insurance cover?

Critical illness insurance will pay out if you are diagnosed with any of the conditions listed in the policy documents. The most comprehensive policies can cover you for more than 100 conditions. In contrast, more limited policies only cover you for around ten critical illnesses. Of course, the more diseases covered, the higher your monthly premiums.

Critical illness cover differs from income protection insurance in that you're restricted to a specific list of illnesses in your policy documents. Income protection pays out if you can't work, no matter the medical reason.

Examples of conditions covered by most policies include:

  • Heart attack
  • Head injury
  • Specific types and stages of cancer
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Vital organ transplant
  • Illnesses with permanent symptoms or disabilities

What is typically excluded?

Which conditions are covered by your policy will depend on the terms you opt for, however most policies will not cover you for the following:

  • Non-threatening cancers
  • High blood pressure
  • Broken bones

Most policies will also exclude pre-existing conditions. If you can get a policy to cover a disease from your medical history, it will typically be more expensive.

You may also struggle to get cover against hereditary conditions passed through your family's medical history. As always, check the terms of your policy documents carefully.

Most insurance providers will require you to purchase critical illness cover as a permanent UK resident.

Have been dealing with Will Forsyth for several years now. Every time he comes up with the right policy at the right price. Can recommend his services. Saves me a lot of work!
Diana C

What affects the cost of critical illness cover?

Your critical illness cover cost varies widely depending on your chosen policy and circumstances. Factors that could affect your monthly payments include:

  • Age - As you get older, your health tends to deteriorate, and you're more susceptible to critical illness. So, your cover will be more expensive.
  • Medical history - If you have pre-existing conditions and your insurer agrees to cover you, your monthly payments are likely higher.
  • Smoking - If you smoke (or used to), your premiums will be more expensive.
  • Your profession - If you work in a dangerous job where you're more likely to have an accident, such as in construction, your premiums could be higher.
  • Level of cover - If you want your cover amount to be higher than average or cover a broader range of critical conditions, be prepared for more significant premiums.
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What does income protection insurance cover?

Unlike critical illness cover, which restricts you to a specific list of medical conditions, income protection insurance covers almost any illness or injury that stops you from working.

Successful income protection claims pay you a percentage of your monthly income until you are well enough to return to work or your policy term ends.

When you purchase income protection cover, you can choose for it to last a set number of years or until your anticipated retirement age.

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How long do you have to wait for the policy to pay out?

The 'deferred period' is the waiting time between you claiming your income protection insurance and the policy paying out.

You can set the deferred period when you take out your income protection cover. The shorter the deferred period you choose, the higher your monthly premiums.

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I already have critical illness cover with my life insurance policy. How is income protection different?

Critical illness insurance pays you a tax-free lump sum if you contract an illness from a specific list on the policy. Depending on your level of cover, you may need more than the lump sum to support you for long.

Income protection can be used as a short-term fix, but it's often taken out to protect you from a long-term inability to work. You can even choose for it to cover you until retirement age, giving you security should you become unable to work.

What type of income protection insurance do you need?

There are several different types of income protection cover, each with its benefits and disadvantages. Compare income protection insurance types and see what's best for you.

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Short-term income protection

Short-term IP covers if you cannot work for a short period due to sickness or injury. For example, if you broke your leg. Most policies last from 6 months to 2 years.


  • Short-term income protection is typically more affordable than long-term cover
  • Your insurance payouts can help bridge the gap if you temporarily can't work
  • If you're a generally healthy person, this type of cover is ideal


  • Shorter policies may not cover you for the whole of your illness if it's serious
  • If you stay healthy, you may never need to use your insurance
  • Waiting periods may discourage you from claiming on your policy

Long-term income protection

Long-term income protection covers you if you become severely ill and cannot work. For example, if you become permanently disabled.


  • Your personal and family finances are protected for an extended period
  • Some long-term policies last until your anticipated retirement date
  • Your monthly payment is higher than SSP


  • Long-term income cover is more expensive than short-term
  • Your medical history may make long-term cover prohibitively expensive
  • If you remain healthy, you may never need to claim on your policy

Index-linked income protection

This type of income protection considers that your salary should rise with inflation during your career. When you take out an index-linked policy, how much cover you have grows each year, aligned with inflation.


  • The value of your cover rises every year alongside inflation
  • It's easier to maintain your current standard of living
  • In times of high inflation, index linking your income protection safeguards your policy


  • Your monthly premiums rise every year alongside the value of your cover
  • Your premiums rise by a higher percentage than inflation, to safeguard your insurer
  • If you remain healthy, you may never need to claim on your policy

Stepped benefit income protection

This type of cover considers your employer's sick pay policy and how long it lasts. If you claim, your policy will pay out a lower amount while your employer still pays you a higher percentage of your salary. If your employer reduces the percentage after a specific period, your income protection pay rises.


  • Your income cover is more efficient
  • You can choose the level of cover
  • If your employer's benefits are only for a short period, you're still covered


  • If you return to work before your employer's payouts end, you don't get the full benefit of the policy
  • This flexibility may be reflected in higher premiums
  • Income protection payments and your total income are more unpredictable

With years of experience, we can quickly help you find the best policy and terms.

With life and critical illness cover, it's essential that a balance is found, so you're protected but not over insured or overpaying.

Matt Fletcher, Senior Broker
Matt Fletcher

How much cover do you need?

As with all insurance, the higher the value of your cover, the higher your premiums.

Most insurers allow you to insure 50% of your gross salary.

Think about how much money you need every month to pay your mortgage and household bills while maintaining your standard of living.

Don't underestimate the level of cover you need to lower your premiums.

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Depending on your policy, your income cover may come with a wide range of extra benefits that could help you throughout your insurance term. These could include:

Back-to-work payments

Often when you return to work, you may have to earn a different salary than you were on before. For example, you may need more time to work the same number of days. In these cases, your insurance will continue to pay out to make up for the shortfall.

Deferral period waiver

If you make a claim, receive a monthly benefit, and then return to work, but you get ill within the next 12 months, some insurers will allow you to claim straight away, without another deferral period.

Hospital payments

If you go into hospital for treatment, some income policies will pay out a proportion of your cover to guarantee your income while you recover. In some cases, this can be within your deferral period.

Life insurance

Some income policies come with added life insurance. The amount of life cover added will depend on your policy, but it could be as valuable as 1-2 years of premiums.

Premium waiver

Some insurers will stop your premiums when you start receiving monthly payouts from your policy.
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Frequently asked questions