Jodie developed chronic pelvic pain which affected her ability to work. Due to her diagnosis and reduced income, Jodie had to borrow money from family and could not pay her electricity bills.
To alleviate her financial stress, Jodie applied to withdraw funds from her KiwiSaver under the grounds for serious illness. Jodie’s doctor provided a medical certificate stating she was unable to work at that time and required assistance to leave her house. Her doctor advised further medical investigations were scheduled, but he was not able to confirm whether Jodie would be permanently unable to work.
The trustee considered Jodie’s application for withdrawal and declined it on the basis that the medical evidence did not demonstrate Jodie would never be able to work again (in her particular area of expertise or education).
Jodie felt as she was unable to work now and for the foreseeable future, she required her KiwiSaver funds to relieve her financial stress. She complained about the trustee’s decision to FSCL.
We agreed that the trustee would need to be satisfied Jodie had an illness, injury or disability that either permanently affected her ability to work, or poses a risk of death. We did not consider that the medical evidence from Jodie’s doctor met this threshold.
While Jodie’s health providers were unable to confirm that her diagnosis would prevent her from working permanently, it appeared that Jodie was struggling to meet her minimum living expenses. The trustee suggested that Jodie should submit a significant financial hardship application instead.
Jodie would need to satisfy the trustee that: she was unable to meet minimum living expenses or the cost of medical treatment and palliative treatment, that she had explored other sources of funding, and the withdrawal was limited to the amount required to alleviate her particular hardship.
Jodie felt concerned that she would not be able to withdraw funds to pay off her debt under the hardship provision. The trustee noted that while minimum living expenses under significant financial hardship only included minimum debt repayments, each application would be assessed on its own merits.
Jodie agreed to make a withdrawal application under the significant financial hardship category. We did not hear further from Jodie.
Key insights for the participant and the complainant
The primary purpose of a KiwiSaver scheme is to provide the beneficiary with funds at retirement. Therefore, investors should be aware that they will not automatically be entitled to access their KiwiSaver funds to alleviate their financial needs. Kiwi Saver withdrawal applications will be assessed in accordance with the workplace Savings guidelines for processing significant financial hardship and serious illness applications.