These days, each family approaches work and home life differently – with both parents working, or one parent at home caring for the domestic duties - their home and children.

The trend in more modern times has seen a shift towards both parents employed, recent statistics from the ABS shows half (51%) of mothers in couple families with dependent children aged 0-4 years are employed and 28% of mothers employed in single parent families.

This means that many homes in Australia rely upon at least one parent, mother or father, being home to care for their children and home. In a number of cases this can be a financial choice, dictated by the costs of child care, or simply preference.

Whatever the case may be, if the worst were to happen to the stay-at-home parent, it could dramatically impact the whole family.

So what happens if the full time domestic duty/care provider becomes permanently sick or injured and is unable to perform such duties ever again?
Well the good news is that some superannuation funds offer domestic duties benefit or cover as part of their total and permanent disablement (TPD) policy. If this is the case it can provide for the injured caregiver.

So what is the domestic duties benefit and what does it cover? We take a look.
The home duties or domestic duties benefit is designed to cover the loss of those who engage in full time domestic home duties. It is specifically designed for homemakers and provides cover for those who perform unpaid domestic duties in a full time capacity.

If the homemaker becomes permanently unable to perform their home duties due to injury or illness for at least 3 consecutive months and is unlikely to carry out normal household duties again, a lump sum benefit will be paid.

What is recognised as home duties?
While the definition of ‘domestic duties’ will vary between the different policy providers most will typically include:
  • Cleaning the family home e.g. vacuuming, dusting, mopping;
  • Taking care of children or other dependants;
  • Cooking family meals and cleaning up afterwards;
  • Doing family grocery shopping;
  • Changing bed linen;
  • Doing family laundry and ironing;
  • Gardening;
  • Minor repairs to and general maintenance of the home;
  • Providing transport for family members;
  • Looking after family finances;
  • Looking after family pet(s).
What are the eligibility requirements?

To be eligible for the domestic duties benefit you will need to provide information about your circumstances at the “date of disablement”, this being the date you were unable to undertake home duties. You will also need to meet the definition of TPD as recognised by your fund, be under the preservation age (usually 65 years) and that the required waiting period has expired (usually 3-6 months).

You will need to show the following:
  • At the date of your illness/injury you were not employed and were engaged in unpaid domestic duties in your own residence; and
  • It is unlikely that you will ever again be able to perform your domestic duties; and
  • It is unlikely that you will never be able to engage in any gainful employment.
How much will I receive?
The amount you will receive for your lump sum benefit will depend upon how much you are insured for. Policies vary from fund to fund however this information is usually included in your policy statement.

If you are considering making a domestic duties claim, our lawyers can review your paperwork and let you know your options and what the amount may be. What if my claim for a TPD benefit is rejected?

If superannuation fund rejects your claim for a TPD benefit, the first step is to ask your fund to review their decision. If, upon review, the decision is still rejected, or you have not received a response from your fund within 90 days, you may lodge an appeal with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal (SCT). If you are not satisfied with the determination of the SCT then you have the right to appeal this determination in the Federal Court.

What if I have never worked and do not belong to a superannuation fund?
If you are not a member of any superannuation fund then you will be unable to apply for a TPD benefit for domestic duties through superannuation. You do however have the option of taking out stand-alone TPD insurance for domestic duties with most insurance companies.

While permanent injury or illness is unfortunate in any circumstances the domestic duties benefit may be some comfort for the millions of Australian homemakers. If you or your spouse is the homemaker, it is always recommended that you check what cover you have in your superannuation policies.

If you think you are eligible for a ‘home duties benefit’ or any other kind of benefit through your superannuation fund, you can call Gouldson Legal to talk with one of our lawyers about your options or visit our superannuation claims page for more information.

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