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Expect the unexpected

Alan Waddington

Guest Blog Writer: Alan Waddington, Distribution Director at Cirencester Friendly

1 May 2024
We live in a world that has never been so safety-conscious. Millions of pounds are spent every year on improving safety, whether that be in the home, at work or on transportation. Just last month, the government announced they would be spending £38 million on creating safer roads in England. While investments like this have undoubtedly made life safer, with thankfully far fewer fatalities at work and on the roads, it is impossible to prevent every accident.

The Health and Safety Executive reported that in 2022/3 there were more than half a million non-fatal accidents at work, caused by things like slips, trips and falls or handling or lifting equipment. While most of these are likely to be minor incidents, causing short-term harm, last year, 124,000 people had to take more than 7 days off work due to a workplace accident. 

When you also consider all accidents that happen outside of work; around the house, playing sport or even walking the dog, there are thousands of people who suffer unexpected injuries every day. A significant proportion of these may have to take time out to recover, unable to work. While some will be lucky and receive enhanced sick pay, others will have to manage on statutory sick pay or be entitled to nothing at all.

Looking at Cirencester Friendly’s claims for 2023, accidents were the most common reasons for Members to make a claim. They accounted for almost a third (32%) of all claims. For men, they were even more common, with four in 10 claims being due to an accident. 

However hard we try to keep safe; injuries are part of being human and can happen to anyone, at any time. They can result from the most innocuous situations, such as tripping over toys left on the floor by your children or simply slipping off a kerb or down a couple of steps.

Just one of these everyday accidents happened to me in the run-up to Christmas. Keen to celebrate the festive period, I was a little too vigorous with my moves on the dance floor and ruptured my Achilles tendon.

This painful injury meant I needed an urgent operation, followed by a period of hospitalisation and at week at home to recover. Due to the nature of my job, I was able to return to work remotely after that. However, those who have more physically demanding roles, such as builders, plumbers, shop assistants or teachers would not have been so lucky. Such a debilitating injury would have meant a prolonged period off work, causing more to worry about than recovering to full fitness.

Two thirds of workers in the UK don’t work at a desk. For them, the workplace is on the road, on the shop floor, in the classroom or moving around in many other different types of location. They need to be physically fit. While suffering an injury is not good news for anyone, for these people it can be life changing in more ways than one.

While some of these deskless workers will be supported by their employer, many will have no safety net to fall back on. Without sick pay or self-employment benefits, immediate financial strain could easily arise, challenging their ability to cover bills and essential expenses. 

Millions of people live pay cheque to pay cheque. One in six adults in the UK have no savings at all, equating to 8.7 million people . If any of these were unable to work for even a week, they risk falling into serious financial difficulties.

Many have the assumption that they will be paid when sick, but few know that terms of their employer’s sick pay policy. An estimated 8 million people only have access to a below-subsistence level of £1.10 an hour sick pay in the first week of absence and £3 an hour after that . This clearly falls far short of what’s required, and the process of claiming universal credit or borrowing comes with its difficulties, especially with the level of current interest rates.

For the 4.3 million who are self-employed in the UK , with only themselves to rely on, a ruptured Achilles tendon or any other serious injury could spell disaster. Being unable to work not only means a loss of income in the short term, but it can also mean future opportunities can be potentially missed, impacting long-term earnings prospects. 

The clear solution is income protection, a crucial safeguard beyond life cover and critical illness policies, a vital safety net for just these situations to make sure essential bills are covered and physical pain doesn’t turn into financial pain too. 

Of course, working for Cirencester Friendly, means I have a generous sick pay scheme, as well as my own income protection cover, which I didn’t have to claim on, this time.  Unfortunately, millions of UK workers are not so lucky.

This scenario is not unusual or out of the ordinary. It could happen to anyone at any time, no matter their state of health or fitness. We often think cover like income protection is there for when serious health problems occur, such as cancer or a stroke. While it can be life-changing in these circumstances, my story serves as a reminder it is there for the mundane too - cover that anyone might need.

Painting a realistic picture of potential financial risks in the face of unexpected health issues is crucial. We need to work together more effectively with our adviser partners to get this message across. Making it personal, sharing experiences like mine and our claims stats show accidents do and will happen and that it pays to expect the unexpected. Leaving clients to rely on luck in such situations is not the sensible or ethical thing to do.


[1] Savings statistics 2024: Average savings in the UK (finder.com)
[2] Charities and experts call for overhaul of UK’s ‘broken’ sick pay system | Pay | The Guardian
[3] UK self-employment figures 2024 | Statista

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Paradigm Mortgage Services LLP is a Limited Liability Partnership.