Putting in place the right mix of insurance cover to suit your needs is no easy task, so it is extremely important to get the right advice. TPD is one type of insurance you should have but what is it and when can you claim it?

Most life insurance policies will allow you to buy extra cover called a Total and Permanent Disablement (TPD) benefit. It’s usually offered to working people aged between 16 and 65, with policies also available for Homemakers. Cover can be arranged privately or through a superannuation fund.

If you are ill or injured and unlikely to be able to work again, you get paid out under the policy. Advances in medical science mean your chance of survival after an accident or serious illness is much better than it was even 20 years ago. But what will your quality of life be like if you can no longer earn an income? You will need money to pay off debts, support your family, pay medical bills, and fund your lifestyle.

Like all insurance policies, it’s important to understand when the benefit will be payable. This is particularly important with TPD cover where the insurer will pay out in the event it is unlikely you will ever be able to work again. The difficulty has always been to define what is meant by “unlikely to be able to work again”.

To qualify for payment you will generally need to have been off work for at least six months due to the disability. You will be required to lodge medical reports from your own doctors and be examined by the insurer’s medical specialists. Depending on the wording of the policy, the insurer will decide if you can work again in:

  • Your own occupation
  • Your own or a similar occupation or
  • Any occupation.

The any occupation definition

One definition of TPD is based on your ability to do your own job (or a similar one where you are qualified through your existing education, training and experience or possible retraining).


A painter who suffers a back injury and cannot climb ladders or stand for long periods may be classed as permanently disabled if he has no other employment skills. A teacher who suffers stress-related illnesses when faced by a classroom of children may not meet that classification if she can work outside the classroom as a tutor, examiner or writer of educational material.

The own occupation definition

A second definition is based on your ability to do just your own job. The premiums for this type of cover tend to be more expensive.


A surgeon who damages his hands may be classed as permanently disabled because he cannot perform surgical operations, but he will still be able to work as a doctor or lecturer though on lower earnings.

Homemaker definition

The definitions above are only suitable for employed people but another definition is based on the ability to live independently. You would be classed as permanently disabled if you could not dress, eat, bathe, maintain personal hygiene or move around your home unaided. This means that a spouse who works in the home and raises children could also be insured – what would it cost to do the shopping, childcare, transport and other activities if your spouse could not do it?

Some policies provide other definitions of disablement such as loss of limbs, blindness or inability to perform the activities of daily living.

There is a natural tendency to look for the lowest premium in selecting insurance. With TPD cover, being sure the policy definitions are appropriate for your own circumstances is absolutely vital. There is no point having insurance that doesn’t pay out when you need it. Talk to us about finding the right risk cover for you.

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