Plenty of us are guilty of not paying enough attention to our superannuation.
In Australia, most of us have super that’s funded by contributions from our employer. And because the money’s not affecting our hip pockets right now, many of us tune out to it.
The times we do think about our super are often when we start a new job, go through the process of rolling over funds or start heading towards retirement years. But often, we only pay attention to the financial performance and investment of our superannuation funds, and skip over one of the most important elements: our super’s insurance benefits.
In this article, we look at why it’s so important that you understand your super’s insurance benefits, and what you need to know to help you feel informed, confident and empowered to look after yourself and your loved ones now and in the future.
Why you should care about super’s insurance benefits
Every day I work with clients who have no idea what their super provides in terms of insurance benefits. And they’re certainly not alone—it’s one of the key areas many people don’t understand or aren’t aware of.
Most funds come with insurance cover attached, which means you may be covered financially if you’re unable to work because you’ve been injured or become ill.
None of us are immune to injury or illness, so the impact of not paying attention to super insurance benefits can be both detrimental and significant. This is why we need to treat super insurance with the same care and attention we give our car or home insurance. As much as we don’t want to think about it, we need to make sure we’re prepared for a rainy day.
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to super insurance, and how to get help if you need to lodge a claim or dispute an outcome.
What’s usually included in a superannuation insurance policy?
Most super funds automatically include insurance benefits for:
- Total and permanent disability (TPD)
- Some insurance policies also provide income protection and trauma benefits.
These benefits are funded from a separate insurance policy attached to your super, so if you claim successfully, you don’t need to worry about the money being taken from your retirement savings. Unlike Workers’ Compensation, it doesn’t matter how your injury or illness occurred.
Are all policies the same?
Some funds and insurers are making it increasingly difficult for their members to access insurance benefits. Some have changed their terms and conditions, making it even harder to claim successfully.
For example, some insurance policies through super:
- Have new definitions, such as lists of ‘hazardous’ occupations, which affect how they assess TPD claim
- State you must have rehabilitation as a condition of your claim
- Only release a portion of your TPD benefit each year, and review your claim annually, rather than paying out a lump sum
- No longer cover you after your employment ends
- Require you to maintain a minimum account balance to make a claim
- Require you to keep making contributions to your super to be covered.
Can I claim multiple benefits?
I have other insurance policies—how does that impact me?
If you have other insurance policies, whether inside or outside of your super fund, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wasting money paying premiums.
For instance, you can usually make multiple claims for TPD across funds and policies.
In the case of income protection, you may be able to receive a top-up benefit if you are not being paid more than usually 75% of your income from another source, for example, workers’ compensation weekly benefits. Keep in mind you can’t ‘double dip’—you can’t claim a total amount that’s more than your usual income.
I’m getting other benefits—what does that mean for me?
If you’re getting statutory benefits like Workers’ Compensation, motor vehicle injury compensation, Comcare or the Centrelink Disability Support Pension, you can also make a superannuation insurance claim. A TPD lump sum payment isn’t usually offset against statutory benefits, whereas income protection is.
You should note that a TPD lump sum may be assessed against the assets test for Centrelink purposes.
Weigh up the pros and cons of your superannuation insurance benefits
It’s important to be aware that your super insurance is based on a one-size-fits-all model, making definitions broader and less personalised.
Advantages of your superannuation insurance
- It covers you for potential risk
- It’s low cost because it’s paid for from your super contributions
- You usually don’t have to satisfy health prerequisites like you do with a private insurer.
Disadvantages of your superannuation insurance
- You have less control. While there is some capacity to increase your level of insurance, you usually don’t have the advantage of agreeing on an insured sum like you would in a market fund.
- Definitions in terms and conditions are typically more difficulty to satisfy because they’re broader in nature. They’re usually designed to apply to any occupation, whereas “own occupation” definitions are often available through a private policy.
- Super funds work with set amounts of income protection, whereas private policies can be tailored to an agreed value.
- Income protection through a super fund is often limited to a maximum period of 2 or 5 years
- When claiming insurance through your super, you need to meet two sets of conditions—those of the insurer and those of the super fund trustee—which can make things more complicated.
How can I protect myself?
Should you join another fund? Increase your cover? Roll over funds? The best way to prepare yourself in case you get injured or sick is to:
- read the material you get from your super fund—don’t just throw it in the drawer!
- request the extra brochures your fund produces and ask them for more information if you need it
- check your fund’s insurance related information online—it’s freely accessible and written in plain English
- talk to a lawyer who specialises in insurance if you still have questions.
How can Slater and Gordon help?
At Slater and Gordon, we’ve been helping people for decades to get the most out of their superannuation and insurance claims. We have an entire department dedicated to superannuation and insurance, and we’re proud to be one of the largest teams in the country, with the experience and skills to fight for you if you need us to.
Because funds and insurers are making it increasingly difficult for their members to access insurance benefits, it helps to have us on your side. Our specialist lawyers can help you:
- lodge a claim
- challenge a claim rejection.
Between May 2017 and May 2018 Slater and Gordon obtained over $129 million in insurance payouts from superannuation funds and insurers.
Lodging a claim for you
We’ll work with you to go through your circumstances and determine your eligibility to proceed with a claim. If you’re eligible, we work closely with you on a detailed submission.
We understand that dealing with legal matters in the midst of illness or injury can be confusing and stressful, so we’re focused on making it as straightforward and clear as possible for you to understand your entitlements and our recommendations around your options. We’re passionate about helping you to get what you deserve, so you can focus your energy on your own recovery.
Challenging a claim rejection
One thing I make sure clients know is that they shouldn’t discount their options if their claim is rejected.
If you walk away before you’ve explored all your options, you may miss out on significant benefits that may be payable to you. If there are grounds for it, we can challenge the claim, and I’m proud to say we have an excellent track record in successfully securing the benefits our clients deserve.
We’re here for you if you need us
If you or someone you love has been injured or become ill, and you need help claiming from your superannuation fund, get in touch online or call us on 1800 555 777.
You don’t need to do it alone—we can help with the claim process.
*No Win, No Fee conditions apply.