Are you in VIC? If not, please change below.

In your state, you are required to confirm you wish to access this information. Please enter 'QLD' or 'WA' in the field below to continue.

No thanks

Insurer changes TPD definition in Australia

TPD lawyers | Shine Lawyers

Australia’s largest and most recognisable industry superannuation fund, AustralianSuper, has agreed to allow TAL to unilaterally alter the definition for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance to make it significantly more difficult for members to claim this benefit – a benefit for which they pay premiums from their own superannuation account.

Most superannuation funds provide their members with TPD insurance they can access if, for any medical reason, they are unable to continue working in a job for which they have education training and experience.

As of 1 November 2014, the new definition of TPD for the 2 million plus members of AustralianSuper will now require an assessment not only of whether their medical condition prevents them working in a job within their education training and experience, but also whether, in TAL’s opinion, that member is able to reasonably retrain or reskill despite their injury or illness.

If TAL forms a view that a person with an illness or personal injury can’t do their old job, but can retrain for another job with which their injury or illness does not interfere, then a benefit will not be payable. This is despite a person being unable to return to the type of work that they have been doing in the past, often doing for many years, and sometimes even exclusively.

Shine Lawyers solicitor Melissa O’Neill has more than 10 years’ of claims and litigation experience in this space and says she is extremely concerned about how the change with impact everyday Australians. Ms O’Neill expresses concerns that many other insurers and superannuation funds will follow AustralianSuper down a similar path.

“These changes will make it significantly more difficult for injured AustralianSuper members to access insurance benefits when they are most in need,” Ms O’Neill said.

“Typically, we see manual, low and semi-skilled workers who rely on this type of insurance as it has the benefit of being good value for money, and does not impact on a family’s cash flow – that is a good way to protect a family for these workers on low wages,” she said.

“These type of workers are doing that work for a reason – they may not be academically minded, or may not have an inclination to work in an office or retail environment.

To expect these workers to reskill into a role completely at odds with their interests and skill set takes away a person’s right to choose their own career path.

In recent years, insurance companies have likely seen a growth in claims as more and more people have become aware of their insurance benefits and rights. 

It appears that they have been unprepared for this and are now declining legitimate claims in an attempt to protect their profit margins.

In my view this latest development is simply an attempt by insurance companies to curb the payouts being made through legitimate claims by using its corporate presence to bully the little guy.”

Ms O’Neill says what is most concerning about this change in policy definition is the lack of clarity around when this assessment about a worker’s ability to get alternative work will be made.

“Will TAL simply draw out the claims process in the hope that a claimant will eventually get a job, even if it take 3, 4 or even 5 years, just so it does not have to pay? Such a claims process would mean the whole purpose of the insurance would be defunct.

TAL and Australian Super have failed to offer their customers any reassurance or safeguards in this regard.”

Ms O’Neill says that this new definition now requires workers to show that they are so badly off that they simply cannot undertake any work at all.

“I have no doubt that insurers will trot out the old line that anyone can get work as a telemarketer or as a delivery driver – because everyone who can use a phone, or has a driver’s licence is able to do this work,” she said.

“It also increases the cost for a claimant in obtaining the appropriate and necessary medical and occupational evidence to prove their case.  In some instances this can cost a claimant in the vicinity of $5,000.  I believe that some claimants will simply forego making a claim as it is all too hard and expensive, and I suspect this plays into TAL’s strategy to reduce their own claims costs.”

Ms O’Neill says she is concerned about what choices had been given to AustraliaSuper members about the significant tightening up of the TPD definition.

“I would be interested to see what notice AustralianSuper gave to its members about what the changes really mean, and whether this has allowed their members to really consider the type of insurance that they want and need,” she said.

“It certainly is not displayed on their website, and from what I can see, it has not been announced in their daily news & blogs.

The way in which this change has been snuck past members is shameful. Members of AustralianSuper should be showing their displeasure by seeking advice and getting alternative insurance elsewhere.”


Written by

Written by Shine Lawyers on . Last modified: March 14, 2018.

Join the discussion

Share this article:

  • stephen owens wrote:

    had a stroke in which h left me with disabilities
    regards steveowens

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Steve, we are so sorry to hear that you had a stroke which left you with disabilities. If you would like to receive a callback from a member of the New Client Team to discuss your options, enter your details here:

  • Rossn Osbor wrote:

    I think all my super has been closed but I’m not sure. I’ve been injured at work and can’t return to anything even resembling, what I could do before, I’m on workers comp but I’ll be on the age pension as of the 21st of march 2017 is there any thing I can do about TPD I’m trying to retrain myself through TAFE but the insurance company say they don’t have to pay for it

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Rossn,

      Thanks for getting in contact. If you would like to speak to one of our staff to determine your entitlements in relation to Superannuation insurance and TPD benefits please use one of the contact options available on this page.


  • Peter Knop wrote:

    Hi my name is Peter I worked exclusively in a sector of construction. I worked long hours with immense pressure but was good at what I did and honest absolutely loved being site foreman. I worked on some of the country’s biggest installations and actually managed quite a lot of them. 10 years I spent building up my boss’s company only to fall victim to a soul destroying illness. I know have peripheral neuropathy and there are days I cant even stand to put shoes on. Shortly after being diagnosed my boss terminated me for being unsuitable for that type of work.
    I have struggled to.come to terms with this and would very much like.some assistance pushing foward insurance for TPD

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Peter, thanks for getting in touch with us, and sorry to hear about your situation. In order to determine if we are able to assist, please use one of the contact options available on this page.

  • Mark O'Brien wrote:

    I always understood that the trustees had to work in the best interest of its members. I have TPD with CARESUPER for around $ 120,000. I have this week been told by my GP and a Rehab associate professor at RMH that I will NOT be able to undertake any employment in future due to a stroke. I am currently receiving 75% of my salary from COMCARE. Not sure if I should make a claim against my super fund..

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Mark, thanks for getting in touch. We’ll need more information to determine the best course of action. A member of our New Client Team will be able to gather more details, talk through the services we offer and let you know if we can help. You can find the contact details here:

  • Jim McConnell wrote:

    Cbus uses TAL as there TPD and Death insurer. They use the same tactics you have spoke about when you lodge TPD claim trying every angle to dispute your claim even though the specialist doctor confirms that I have a full disability now. He has written to them twice and told them that I was unlikely to ever return to any work . How do they stand disputing my claim when I have now been granted a full DSP pension . This was granted last month after many months of proving my disability to Centrelink. According to TAL my Fibromyalgia doesn’t impact me doing any other job. This is even after I was discharged from a work place provider as a high risk to be employed due to the high cocktail of medication I take everyday . I have been paying the insurance premiums for 15 years and still am while my claim is in process. I am not giving up on my claim it’s now been in dispute for over 12 months. So who is right the Govt or TAL. Would like to know before I take them to the Onbudsman.
    This misleading compulsory insurance is nothing but joke as Cbus don’t want to know you and your paying TAL a large amount of my money from my super amount for nothing. Thanks Jim

    • Shine Lawyers wrote:

      Hi Jim, I’m sorry to hear about your experience but thank you for getting in touch. We’ve got a team of experts in Superannuation & Insurance Claims so if you wanted to see if we can assist with your claim please get in contact with our New Client Team. They will be able to gather more details and let you know if we can help. You can find the contact details here:

    You and Your Superannuation: How Can You Claim Your Super?

    With the cost of living skyrocketing, an illness or redundancy can spell financial disaster for thousands of Australians. For all, the superannuation system is a complex one, with few aware of the circumstances that enable your funds tied up in super to be accessed early. Generally, any money saved in the superannuation system after 1 […]

    Read more

    What to look for in contents insurance

    Australians are chronically under-insured. In fact, only 1 in 5 of us has enough cover to replace our belongings and our homes if we lost everything in a fire or a flood. People who rent their homes are even less likely to have insurance at all. Research from the Insurance Council of Australia found around […]

    Read more

    The battle continues for shark attack victim Glenn Dickson

    In February, Cairns local and expecting-father Glenn Dickson was doing what he loved – spearfishing with friends. However, when he jumped into the water near Hitchinbrook Island, his life changed forever. Glenn was viciously attacked by a shark and lost his left leg, losing consciousness and technically dying six times. Miraculously, Glenn survived. It was […]

    Read more