The country’s largest superannuation fund for members of the health and community services sector has teamed up with the Women’s Legal Service Victoria (WLSV) to develop a streamlined process that enables splitting of super funds when relationships cease.
HESTA, a superannuation fund of 850,000 members, 80% of whom are women, have called the system “Simpler Super Splitting” and want to make the procedure of splitting superannuation assets easier, faster and fairer.
HESTA’s Head of Impact, Mary Delahunty said in a statement that the variety of procedures across multiple funds can make the process more complicated than necessary, and that the new initiative, which involved other advocacy grounds including Women in Super, “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.”
Debby Blakey, CEO of HESTA, agrees. “Dividing superannuation assets through the family law system is unnecessarily complex and often requires costly legal advice.”
“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,” she said.
The Simple Super Splitting strategy will call for the elimination of legal advice before super assets are divided, and provide a template form that can be summoned across the industry and by the courts.
These changes were instigated by a report back in 2016 by the WLSV which investigated the financial barriers women often experienced in the family law system. The report found that for more than 1 in 5 women, superannuation was their only significant asset.
Blakey reminded us of some terrifying statistics in her statement, adding, that “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.”
Tania Clarke, the Senior Policy Adviser at WLSV, expressed concerns over the limited assets and heavy debt many women of domestic violence are burdened by, and the urgent necessity of initiatives like Simpler Super Splitting.
“For many women superannuation is the only asset they can claim from their former partner,” she said. “Yet we know that they are walking away from accessing it because the super splitting system is just too costly and complex to navigate.”
“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.”
In October, Christopher Budd, a working father, published an opinion piece on Women’s Agenda, explaining how the current superannuation system indirectly discriminates against women. His piece, where he recounts the arduous and extensively bureaucratic hurdles he had to jump through in order to wire some of his super to his wife, reveals why systems like Simple Super Splitting are vital.