The purpose of protection – supporting your clients during a global pandemic

For intermediaries only

Over the last year, we’ve certainly learnt just how unpredictable the future can be. During a global pandemic, the value of protection cover has never been greater. So we’re proud to have maintained a strong claims experience for 2020 — paying 94% of all protection claims we received, helping people, families and businesses going through some of the most difficult times in their lives.

We paid:

  • 96% of life protection claims;
  • 93% of critical illness claims, and
  • 91% of income protection claims1.

Impact of the pandemic on claims

Life protection

We received 17% more life protection claims in 2020 than in 2019. While we can attribute coronavirus to some of this increase, it doesn’t account for it all. Of the life protection claims we received, coronavirus was shown on 12% of death certificates as the cause of death – we paid 99% of these claims. However, it’s possible that it could have been a contributing factor in a larger number of claims, even though it wasn’t mentioned on the death certificate – so we can’t be sure how many would have occurred without the pandemic.

A number of the coronavirus claims we received were for individuals with underlying health conditions such as cancer, diabetes and respiratory conditions – which were potentially going to lead to a claim in the near future.

The most common reasons to claim continued to be for cancer (40%), heart-related deaths (21%) and respiratory-related deaths (14%). However, while the proportion of claims for cancer and heart-related deaths remained in line with our 2019 experience, the proportion of respiratory-related deaths doubled from 7% in 2019.

Critical illness

In 2020, we received 14% less critical illness claims than in 2019. Worryingly, this decrease is unlikely to be because there were less people becoming critically ill, but more likely because of the increased pressure on the NHS. The pandemic meant fewer routine screenings were carried out, such as mammograms and bowel investigations, which normally lead to a number of our cancer claims. Whether this will lead to a spike in claims this year as screenings and appointments begin to get back to normal remains to be seen.

Cancer (62%) continued to be the most common reason to claim, followed by heart attacks (12%) and stroke (6%).

Income protection

We expected to see a significant increase in the number of income protection claims we received in 2020 – primarily around the mental health impacts of the pandemic and the potential long-term effects of having coronavirus (also known as long COVID). However, while our income protection claims more than doubled in 2020, we only received two claims in relation to coronavirus.

One reason could be the government’s extension of the furlough scheme potentially delaying claims. As this comes to an end later this year and we move to a new normal, we expect to see an increase in income protection claims.

Avoiding the pitfalls of misrepresentation

While we want to pay all valid claims, unfortunately, as has been the case for the last few years, we were unable to pay 4% of life protection and 3% of critical illness claims due to misrepresentation. Declining claims is never an easy thing to do, and these cases could easily have been avoided if the customer had provided accurate information in their application form.

For life protection, around a third of these claims were due to misrepresentation around alcohol usage. Our Spotlight on alcohol takes a closer look at alcohol intake, why we ask about it and the importance of being honest about current consumption and past medical advice.

We also highlight some real examples of cases we were unable to pay due to misrepresentation in our Spotlight on life protection claims and Spotlight on critical illness claims.

More than just financial support

For many, the pandemic has intensified the emotional and financial upheaval a death or serious illness can bring, and our experienced team of claims assessors have been on hand to support them through every step.

All our protection customers continue to have access to Policy Plus, to provide support and reassurance. This includes access to a 24/7 health and wellbeing service, a second medical opinion service, a key person replacement service and our funeral payment pledge.

Find out more on our claims page.


1We receive a very small number of income protection claims each year (32 in 2020), which means a single decline can make a big difference to our figures.