Your Superannuation: more than a retirement fund

8 November 2017
Most people think superannuation is only there for retirement. So it can be surprising to learn that you can access your super if injury or illness impacts on your ability to work, or if you are in extreme financial difficulty.

Some workers are also surprised to learn most super accounts have valuable life and disability insurance attached, which people can often claim if they can’t do their job due to injury or illness. An important point to note is that the illness or injury does not have to be work-related.

Monthly payments like Income Protection (IP) and/or lump sum insurance such as Total & Permanent Disablement (TPD) benefits are provided to super fund members by default, meaning that unless they choose to opt-out, your members probably have cover.

Whilst policies and entitlements will vary from super fund to super fund, and policy to policy, as a general rule disability insurance benefits can be claimed if one of your members can’t do their usual job because of any injury or illness. This includes both physical and mental conditions such as stroke, cancer, PTSD, schizophrenia and any other condition which impacts on work capacity, including injury resulting from an accident.

Members don’t generally need to be unable to do all work, just their usual job or a job they are suited to through education, training and experience.

The injury or illness doesn’t need to be work related to claim on a policy through a super fund, but, if it is, your member can often claim workers’ compensation entitlements and lump sum insurance benefits like TPD at the same time.

Case Study

Frank was a machine operator regularly working overtime to support his family and pay off the mortgage. He started noticing pain in his back, was constantly tired, had lost his appetite and kept having dizzy spells at work. He knew something wasn’t right and after a series of tests Frank’s doctor confirmed he had blood cancer and needed to start treatment straight away.

It was a long and difficult road for Frank and his young family, but chemotherapy, a bone marrow transplant and ongoing treatment meant Frank’s cancer went into remission. Both the cancer and the chemotherapy took a toll on Frank and there was no way he could return to the physical demands of his job as a machine operator.

Like many Australians, Frank did not realise he had default life and disability insurance through his super fund. Luckily, when Frank spoke with his union they referred him to Maurice Blackburn. The firm conducted a free investigation to find out what insurance entitlements Frank had, handled the claims process, and dealt with the insurer for him.

Frank was able to claim income protection, covering 75% of his usual earnings to help with living expenses ongoing for two years. He also had TPD insurance through his super fund, however, the insurer rejected the initial claim stating that in their opinion he was able to return to work in a less physical role. Maurice Blackburn was able to dispute the insurer’s decision and argue that Frank could only return to work after significant retraining, and was therefore entitled to the insurance benefit. The insurer eventually relented and Frank received a lump sum payout of more than $200,000. This made a huge difference to Frank and his family during a traumatic time.

If you or someone you know or represent has stopped, or is thinking of stopping work due to any injury or illness, call our helpline to check if they have a claim on 1800 196 050.

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