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Employee benefits that self-employed workers miss out on, and how to bridge the gap

April 19, 2021

There are more than five million self-employed workers in the UK, according to government statistics. This figure is rising, with around one in six people now working for themselves. There are advantages to being self-employed, but some workers could be missing out on benefits worth thousands of pounds compared to their traditionally employed contemporaries.

The average annual replacement cost of typical employee benefits is £9,586, according to calculations from Royal London. This means self-employed workers must earn almost £28 extra per day to match the benefits of employed workers. While some of the benefits used in the calculation aren’t regular occurrences, such as carer’s leave, others play an important role in financial stability.

So, what should self-employed workers focus on when trying to bridge the gap?

Sick pay (calculated replacement cost: £1,154)

As a self-employed worker, being sick usually means having to take unpaid time off work and delaying projects you’re working on.

In contrast, most employees can benefit from Statutory Sick Pay of £96.35 per week if they’re too ill to work. This is paid for up to 28 weeks. In addition, some employers will offer sick pay as part of their benefits, which may be an employee’s full wage, or a portion of it, for a defined period.

It’s important for self-employed workers to have an emergency fund to cover short-term illnesses. However, you also need to consider the impact a long-term illness could have. Financial protection can provide security when you need it most. When thinking about illnesses, there are two main options to consider.

  • Income protection: This would pay a regular income, usually a portion of your typical income, if you became too ill to work. It would provide an income until the policy ends, you return to work, or you retire. There is usually a deferred period, 12 weeks for instance, before the policy starts paying out, so it’s not suitable for short-term illnesses.
  • Critical illness cover: This type of policy pays a lump sum on the diagnosis of certain illnesses, such as cancer or a stroke. It can give you more freedom to take time off work and adjust or pay off large outgoings, such as your mortgage, but will not provide a regular income.

The cost of financial protection products will depend on your health and lifestyle. If you think you could benefit from such products or would like to discuss them further, please give us a call.

In addition to sick pay, some employees will also benefit from health insurance through their employer. While you can rely on the NHS, health insurance could enable you to see a medical professional quicker and potentially have access to a wider range of treatments. It is possible to take out private health insurance, but, again, the cost would depend on your health and lifestyle, as well as the level of cover.

Pension contributions (calculated replacement cost: £1,500)

Most employed workers are now automatically enrolled in a workplace pension, helping them save towards retirement. Employers must also contribute a minimum of 3% of an employee’s pensionable earnings, boosting their savings. Some employers will contribute more than the minimum amount.

While self-employed workers can open and contribute to a pension, they miss out on the employer’s contributions. For someone earning a salary of £30,000 with an employer matching their 5% contributions, this benefit is estimated to be worth £1,500.

While not benefiting from employer contributions, it’s still important for self-employed workers to have a pension. Your contributions will benefit from tax relief and be invested. The most important thing is to understand what retirement lifestyle you want and how a pension can help you make it a reality. A financial plan can mean your contributions are in line with your plans.

Death in service or life insurance (calculated replacement cost: £360)

“Death in service” cover is a type of life insurance policy provided by your employer that would pay out a lump sum to your loved ones should you pass away. While not all employers offer a death in service benefit, some do, and it can provide peace of mind and ensure your family is financially secure should the worst happen.

For self-employed workers with loved ones that rely on them financially, it is possible to take out life insurance that would provide the same level of security. You can select the level of cover you want, for example, so that it matches your mortgage. Again, premiums can vary, and your health will have an impact.

The importance of an emergency fund and financial planning

The research also highlights why it’s so important that self-employed workers have an emergency fund. While employees may benefit from things like bereavement leave, self-employed workers would need to take time off unpaid. Having a readily accessible fund means that you can take time off if needed without having to worry about how you’ll pay for essential outgoings.

Ideally, you should have three to six months’ of outgoings in an emergency fund to provide financial stability when you need it most. The money should be accessible so it can be used when the unexpected occurs. Often, a cash account is advisable for an emergency fund for this reason.

A financial plan can help make sure everything is on track. From short-term saving goals so you can take a holiday to long-term retirement planning, a financial plan can help you achieve aspirations and balance competing priorities. Please contact us if you’re self-employed and would like to discuss how a financial plan can help you reach life goals.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

A pension is a long-term investment. The fund value may fluctuate and can go down, which would have an impact on the level of pension benefits available.

Your pension income could also be affected by the interest rates at the time you take your benefits. The tax implications of pension withdrawals will be based on your individual circumstances, tax legislation and regulation which are subject to change in the future.

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