This information is about getting insurance in the UK. If you are looking for information about getting insurance another country, please contact your local epilepsy organisation.
This information tells you how having epilepsy might affect you when you are trying to get any kind of insurance. There are also suggestions for things you can do if you feel that you have been treated unfairly by an insurance provider.
About the equality laws
In the UK, equality laws exist to protect you from unfair treatment (discrimination) because of your epilepsy. They protect you in different areas of life, such as when you are at work or in education and when you are using services.
If you live in England, Scotland and Wales, you are covered by the Equality Act. If you live in Northern Ireland, you are covered by the Disability Discrimination Act.
Epilepsy Action has more information about the equality laws and epilepsy.
Insurance and the equality laws
Providing insurance is considered to be a service. Under the equality laws, service providers have to make sure that they do not treat you unfairly because of your epilepsy. They must not refuse to provide you with a service, or provide the service to a worse standard, for a reason related to your epilepsy.
However, there are special rules for insurance providers. This is because insurance is about risk and how likely someone is to make a claim. So, insurance providers can treat you differently to other people, but they must act within the rules set out in the equality laws.
Here are some ways that insurance providers might treat you differently because you have epilepsy:
- They might charge you more than other people for an insurance policy
- They might offer you lower benefits
- They might refuse to insure you
Insurance providers are allowed to treat you differently, as long as they follow these rules:
- They must prove that there is a difference in risk between you and somebody who doesn’t have epilepsy.
- They must show that their actions are based on relevant, reliable and current information or data. The information could come from statistical information, medical research or a report from your doctor
- It is unlawful for an insurance provider to make a decision about insurance based on an assumption, stereotype or generalisation about epilepsy
Looking for insurance
It can sometimes be difficult to get insurance at reasonable rates, if you have epilepsy. It is worth remembering that different insurance companies assess levels of risk differently. So, getting quotes from several different companies will help you to make sure you are getting the best possible deal. Insurance can be expensive. But it can be much more costly if something happens and you don’t have insurance. Bear in mind that the cheapest insurance may not be the one that offers you the cover you need. Always read the small print to make sure you are getting the product that is right for you.
What you can do if you think you’ve been treated unfairly by an insurance provider
If you feel an insurance provider has treated you unfairly, you can ask them to explain their reasons. If you are not satisfied with the explanation, or if you want some help with this, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (contact details are at the bottom of the page). They offer free, independent advice to consumers who have a complaint about financial services, who have been unable to resolve it themselves.
Alternatively, you may wish to take legal action. Be aware that taking legal action can be expensive. However, depending on your financial circumstances and the issues involved, you may be eligible for the Legal Aid scheme, to cover some or all of the costs.
There are a number of not-for-profit organisations, such as law centres, that specialise in helping people with discrimination issues. You can find their contact details at the end of this information. On the other hand, if you choose to employ a solicitor, it is important to check at the beginning how they will expect to be paid. You should also find out whether they have a contract to provide advice and representation through the Legal Aid scheme. It is also a good idea to find out how much experience they have in dealing with discrimination cases.
Financial Ombudsman Service
Offer free, independent advice to consumers who have a complaint about financial services.
Tel: 0800 023 4567
Citizens Advice Service
Provides free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to everyone on their rights.
Tel: number in your local telephone directory
Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) (England, Scotland and Wales)
The Equality Advisory Support service gives free advice, information and guidance to individuals on equality, discrimination and human rights issues.
Tel. 0808 800 0082
The Equality Commission (Northern Ireland)
The Equality Commission provides advice and information about the Disability Discrimination Act in Northern Ireland.
Tel: 028 90 500 600
Law Centres (England, Scotland and Wales)
Law Centres provide free legal advice and representation to disadvantaged people.
Tel: See your local Phone Book
If you would like to see this information with references, visit the Advice and Information references section of our website. If you are unable to access the internet, please contact our Epilepsy Action Helpline freephone on 0808 800 5050.
Epilepsy Action would like to thank Kate Whittaker, solicitor, and Douglas Johnson, Equality Rights Supervisor, of Sheffield Citizens Advice and Law Centre, for their contribution.
Kate Whittaker and Douglas Johnson have no conflict of interest to declare.
This information has been produced under the terms of The Information Standard.
- Updated March 2017To be reviewed March 2020