Women Teachers and Superannuation in Victoria
The history of superannuation for married women teachers in Victoria is a litany of discriminatory practices, disadvantage and discouragement.
Married women teachers first obtained access to some superannuation in 1957 when, for the first time, women were no longer required to resign from the permanent Teaching Service on marriage.
At that time a special superannuation fund, the Married Women Teachers’ Pension Fund, was established. On marriage, a woman was excluded from the State Superannuation Fund (currenly called ESSSuper), but could elect to join the MWTPF. The MWTPF was a lump sum fund with inferior retirement and disability benefits to the SSF from which they were excluded.
In 1969, the MWTPF became the Married Women’s Superannuation Fund, still with voluntary membership and lesser benefits than the SSF.
It was not until July 1975 that married women had access to the SSF for the first time. Married women permanent teachers were given six months to elect to join the SSF. All new married women entrants to the Teaching Service automatically became members of the SSF but had six months from their date of gaining permanency to opt out of the Superannuation Fund.
The provision created the impression that membership of the Superannuation Fund was unnecessary for married women. This impression was reinforced in 1980 when legislation was enacted offering all married women members the option of leaving the SSF. Despite a strong union campaign advising teachers to remain in the fund, some two thousand members elected to withdraw from superannuation.
The unsatisfactory outcome of this process - the resultant exclusion of a large number of women from future access to superannuation - led to pressure to re-open the SSF.
In 1982, the SSF was reopened to all married women permanent teachers to join and as of July 1982, all new entrants to the service have had compulsory membership of the SSF.
Women who did not elect to join the SSF in 1982 automatically became non-contributory members of the SSF New Scheme when it was established in 1988. They did not, however, get access to the recognition of their prior service for superannuation purposes because they were deemed to have opted out of superannuation in 1982.
Throughout the period from 1957 to 1984, inadequate family leave provisions and prevailing expectations compelled many women to resign when they established a family. Many later resumed as temporary teachers (a lot part-time) without access to superannuation.
Many resigned and rejoined several times as their families grew, remaining as temporary teachers without access to superannuation.
In 1984 the State Employees’ Retirement Benefits Fund (SERB) was established providing some lump sum and pension benefits for temporary teachers. Membership of the fund was voluntary and many temporary teachers did not join. Members of the SERB scheme have been able to transfer to the New Scheme since its commencement in 1988. Those temporary teachers who did not elect to join SERB also lost access to recognition of prior service for superannuation purposes when they ultimately became members of the SSF.
What does all of this mean for women teachers and retirement? Some women have taught for much of their lives without accruing the retirement benefits which compulsorily accrued for men.
Others who accepted primary responsibility for the care of children on the understanding that their husband’s superannuation would provide the family retirement income have lost that retirement security as a result of marital breakdown.
We see many women approaching or in retirement who feel a sense of hopelessness about their prospects of generating a reasonable retirement income. In some cases they have received inadequate and inaccurate advice about their position from other sources.
In many situations, action can be taken to improve their income and capital position.
Recognition of prior service can provide additional benefits at retirement for some women. Efficient structuring of income for age pension, along with reduction of tax payable, can dramatically improve the outlook for achieving a secure and sufficient retirement income.
We would encourage women members approaching retirement to take advantage of our specialist services.
Retirement Victoria are specialists in public sector retirement strategy and are the Australian Education Union – Victorian Branch’s preferred provider of financial and retirement planning services to AEU members.
Information published is of a general and summary nature only and is neither represented as being, nor is intended to be, personal advice on any matter. No person should act on the basis of the information contained herein but should seek appropriate professional advice based upon their own personal circumstances.