How would you manage your finances if you couldn’t work?


Published  17 January 2024
   5 min read

The possibility of getting a serious illness or injury isn’t something we like to think about, but being prepared can help you to avoid money worries if you do ever need to take time off work.

If something were to happen to you that meant you couldn’t work, would you be able to keep paying the bills? With most families relying on both partners' income to pay monthly bills, it’s really worth being prepared if you're unable to work due to serious illness or injury.

So, what can you do to protect yourself, your family and your lifestyle?

Find out how much you’ll get from your employer

Start by finding out how much sick pay your employer will provide. While most employees will be entitled to 28 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay, it’s set at a very low level (£109.40 a week in the 2023/24 tax year) and is unlikely to be enough to pay a family’s bills. Some employers offer company sick pay on top of that – for example, with some time on full pay and a further period on half pay – and some provide health insurance schemes to cover or help with medical costs, so it’s worth checking what you can get.

See if you’re entitled to any help

You may be able to claim state benefits for periods of time off work. Employment and Support Allowance is designed for people with health conditions that make it difficult to work, and Citizen’s Advice has information on other benefits for sickness and disability too. You could also be entitled to help from your local council if your condition means it’s hard for you to do day-to-day tasks. Finally, if you’re struggling with bills, you may qualify for a discount from your energy supplier through the Warm Home Discount Scheme. But, overall, these benefits still provide a relatively low income so it’s best not to rely on them completely.

Work out your monthly budget 

The next step is to work out how much you and your family would need if you find yourself unable to work, taking account of your savings and any other income you might have. Using a budget planner is a great way to work out what you’re spending each month, from household bills to general living costs. Having a good idea of your overall budget will make it easier to make changes, or cut back in certain areas, if money becomes a little tighter. If you do find yourself having to review your spending, take a look at our how to save more money article.

See what type of insurance could work for you

Not many of us will have enough savings to manage financially for long periods of illness – particularly if this money is earmarked for things like retirement or helping children with their education. That’s where insurance protection comes in, and there are a variety of products that can help to cover specific costs, or replace income, should you find yourself unable to work. It’s a good idea to do some research on the different types of insurance on offer to see what might suit you best. Read our types of life insurance article to find out more.

Remember to look after yourself 

Taking time off for illness or injury can have an impact on your mental health as well as your finances, especially if your condition means you’ve had to make big life changes. Aside from family, friends and colleagues, there are lots of places you can get support. Try making an appointment to see your GP, or take a look at the following support services:

  • Mind: advice and support for anyone experiencing mental health issues
  • Scope: practical information and emotional support for disabled people
  • GOV.UK: find a community support group or organisation

There are also lots of support groups for specific illnesses, like cancer (visit Macmillan Cancer Support), heart conditions (visit the British Heart Foundation) and many more.