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Emily’s Story

February 01, 2022

Emily’s Story

Vet Emily Sabin recently spoke to our Health and Wellbeing team about what happened to her following an accident that prevented her from working for over 6 months and the effect it had not only her finances, but her mental health as well.

After graduating in 2011, Emily worked in veterinary practice for 2 years before deciding to become self employed as a locum vet. Working for two central London practices allowed Emily the work/life balance a young vet rarely finds and so she spent her free time and disposable income on her passion; body building.

On a trip to her home town in Jersey, Emily attended a fund raising event with friends. Following a strict training programme for a body building competition, the young vet was abstaining from alcohol on this evening but spirits were high and confident in her training, Emily challenged her friends to arm wrestling matches. This is when Emily’s world came crashing down. With an audible crack and blinding pain, Emily’s arm snapped, leading to 10 days in hospital and a disfigured arm.

Unable to work for 8 months, Emily couldn’t pay rent and was forced to give up her London flat and move back in with her parents. With tax and national insurance bills due alongside mounting medical costs, Emily was left with bills running into thousands of pounds and no income to pay them.

The road to recovery was a long one. Unable to work or compete, the incident also affected Emily’s mental health. It was weeks before she could talk about what had happened without getting upset and although she was able to get a temporary job once her initial injury had healed, restricted movement meant she could not work as a vet, leaving her feeling unfulfilled and dejected.

Eight months after the incident, Emily’s arm was surgically corrected with a plate and with physiotherapy, she was able to return to practice. Looking back over her journey and how something completely unrelated to work affected her life so much, Emily recalls “It was a hard lesson to learn”.

When you think of the future, not being able to work isn’t usually the first thing that comes to mind. But if you take a second to think about the ramifications of not being able to pay for the basics even for just a few months, such as utility bills, food, fuel, the mortgage or rental payments, it can be quite alarming.

Yes there is some state support available and an employer may help, but in reality many employers would reduce pay to SSP (statutory sick pay) after 2 weeks and most employers do not offer income protection as an employee benefit through a group scheme for example.

So what are the options?

Some health insurance providers such as Vitality offer their own income protection (IP) cover to their members often at a reduced premium.  But cover may be limited and care needs to be taken with the ‘occupation’ wording on the policy.  This is crucial for vets and staff who work with large animals, where the chances of sustaining a serious injury are much greater.

Alternatively a discussion with an independent financial advisor with veterinary sector knowledge may be a more appropriate option.  If it is some time since you graduated, your salary will for the most part have increased, along with your financial responsibilities. Perhaps a bigger discussion is needed around the benefits of critical illness cover and life assurance as well.

So what can we learn from Emily’s experience?

It’s easy to dismiss income protection while you’re young and less likely to be affected by age related illness but as Emily’s story demonstrates, you never know what is around the next corner.  Income protection provides you with a safety net if you’re injured or struck down with a long-term illness that prevents you from working. It makes a stressful time more manageable.

Shire’s Health and Wellbeing team can guide you through the income protection options, allowing you to return to work when you are ready, not when you are forced to.

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