11 December 2019
HESTA pushes for simpler super splitting
HESTA is working with Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) to simplify the process of splitting super assets to remove barriers preventing women from claiming their fair share of super when relationships end.
“Dividing superannuation assets through the family law system is unnecessarily complex and often requires costly legal advice, HESTA CEO Debby Blakey said.
“This results in many women, especially those from low-income households or who are most vulnerable, simply walking away from their rightful share of super assets.”
If they can’t claim their share of super, for many women this means losing their only income in retirement beyond the age pension.”
HESTA and WLSV are developing a streamlined and consistent process all superannuation funds can use to make the splitting of superannuation assets easier, faster and fairer.
The two organisations and advocacy group Women in Super recently brought together other superannuation industry leaders, representatives from the Federal Circuit Court, government and regulators in a round table to develop solutions.
The first step in the Simpler Super Splitting initiative aims to eliminate the need for legal advice for the straightforward division of super assets, via a simple, consistent form for court orders that can be used across the industry and by the courts.
HESTA Head of Impact, Mary Delahunty said super splitting processes differ from fund to fund and the complexity surrounding obtaining and completing superannuation splitting orders makes it extremely difficult to complete the required forms without legal assistance.
“We’re working to create a streamlined process that we hope can eventually be adopted by all super funds, with a simple template form that anyone can fill out and lodge without the need for a lawyer,” said Ms Delahunty.
The push for change comes off the back of WLSV’s 2016 research project titled ‘Small Claims. Large Battles’ that examined the barriers disadvantaged women experience in the family law system.
“Many women escaping family violence are living with limited assets and serious debt,” said WLSV’s Senior Policy Adviser, Tania Clarke.
“For many women superannuation is the only asset they can claim from their former partner, yet we know that they are walking away from accessing it because the super splitting system is just too costly and complex to navigate.”
Superannuation was the only significant asset for 21% of the women represented by WLSV in the Small Claims, Large Battles Project, and in 39% of all small claim’s cases, there was a superannuation split.
Ms Clarke said a simpler super splitting process will provide much-needed relief for vulnerable women trying to navigate the costly and complicated legal system.
“Making access to superannuation splitting easier will mean a lesser financial and emotional burden on family violence survivors and less industry and court time wasted trying to process a superannuation split. It’s a win-win for all involved in the system,” said Ms Clarke.
“Many women escaping family violence, after years of economic abuse, are living with limited assets and serious debt. For many of these women, superannuation is often the only part of the property pool.”
HESTA is an industry super fund and is dedicated to people working in the health and community services sector. The Fund has over 850,000 members, 80% of whom are women.
Ms Blakey said HESTA was committed to making the process simpler and easier to navigate so that women weren’t further disadvantaged.
“Women already retire, on average, with around 40% of the super of men and are more vulnerable to poverty later in life, we urgently need to improve the system so that more women aren’t left to fall through the cracks,” Ms Blakey said.
Over the coming year, HESTA will work closely with WLSV to advocate for broader industry change to make the splitting of super assets fairer and easier.
HESTA is the largest superannuation fund dedicated to Australia’s health and community services sector. More than half of those working in the sector nationally invest their retirement savings with HESTA. An industry fund that’s run only to benefit members, HESTA now has over 850,000 members (more than 80% are women) and manages more than $53 billion in assets invested around the world.
HESTA is committed to creating a real difference to the financial future of every member. As a responsible steward of their members’ retirement savings, HESTA focuses on achieving strong, sustainable, long-term returns while making a positive difference to the world members will retire into. HESTA is the acronym for Health Employees Superannuation Trust Australia and should appear in capitals.