COVID-19 – Information for superannuation trustees

Frequently asked questions

This page was last updated 8 December 2020.

This page contains answers to frequently asked questions about current superannuation regulatory issues that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trustees of superannuation funds should also read ASIC and APRA’s joint letter and APRA’s FAQ page. We encourage you to visit these pages on a regular basis to stay up to date with the latest information. 

These FAQs do not constitute legal advice. You should seek your own professional advice to find out how the relevant regulatory requirements apply to you.

1. Early access to superannuation scheme and changes to minimum drawdown rates

2. Recalibration of regulatory priorities due to COVID-19

3. Other issues

1. Early access to superannuation scheme and changes to minimum drawdown rates

1A. Do superannuation trustees need to issue an exit statement to members who have a zero balance due to accessing the COVID-19 early access to superannuation scheme? If so, when do they need to provide these exit statements?

Trustees must make reasonable efforts to provide a member with an exit statement within 1 month after becoming aware that the former member ceased to hold the product (see Corporations Act 2001 (Corporations Act) s1017D(3A), Corporations Regulations 2001 reg 7.9.51 and item 12 of Schedule 10A).

When a member ceases to hold the product will depend on when a member ceases to hold an interest in the fund under its governing rules. This may differ between funds, but in many cases, ASIC anticipates this will occur when the member’s benefit has been fully paid.

ASIC acknowledges that some trustees may need to process many exit statements in a short period of time due to the COVID-19 early access to superannuation scheme. If this causes a trustee to provide a member with an exit statement more than 1 month after the relevant time, the trustee must:

  • be able to demonstrate that they made “reasonable efforts” to meet the 1-month timeframe (as required by s 1017D(3A)); and
  • provide the exit statement as soon as practicable and no later than 6 months after the member ceased to hold the product (as per s 1017D(3)).

Where a trustee provides an exit statement to a member, the trustee may also want to inform the member that if the trustee accepts new contributions in respect of that member, a new account will be opened (that is, a new product will be issued) and the associated disclosure documents will be provided.

This FAQ was last updated 19 May 2020.

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1B. What are ASIC’s expectations of trustees in communicating to their members who have a zero or low balance due to accessing the COVID‑19 early access to superannuation scheme?

In addition to any exit statement requirements (see FAQ 1A above), trustees should understand how a zero or low balance due to accessing the COVID-19 early access to superannuation scheme affects a member’s interest in the fund and provide appropriate and timely communications to affected members. 

These communications should, at a minimum, address whether insurance has ceased and (if relevant) any options and steps for reinstatement of cover. This is consistent with ASIC’s expectations about member notification in relation to insurance ceasing in REP 591 Insurance in Superannuation and REP 529 Member experience of superannuation.

In addition, communications should be balanced and given in a way that ensures members have appropriate opportunity to make a decision (if there is one to make), with clear information about the steps to follow to implement that decision. See REP 655 Review of member communications: Protecting Your Superannuation Package (PYSP) reform.

This FAQ was last updated 19 May 2020.

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1C. What does ASIC expect of trustees in communicating to their members about the impact of COVID-19 on their insurance inside superannuation?

As outlined in ASIC and APRA's joint letter, trustees should understand how members’ insurance may be affected by COVID-19 and ASIC expects trustees to communicate these impacts to their members.

In addition to direct communication with members who have a zero or low account balance (see FAQ 1B above), trustees should include content within existing COVID-19 information on the fund’s website, as well as by providing direct links to resources where members can access more detailed and specifically relevant information.

For example, trustees should communicate:

  • whether loss of employment or reduced work hours results in loss of cover, or a different level of cover, or changes to how insurance claims will be assessed;
  • relevant rules around cessation of insurance (for example, in relation to minimum account balance or ongoing contributions requirements), including what options members have regarding reinstatement of cover if members lose their insurance;
  • whether any pandemic clauses might apply and if so, what the effect of that is; and
  • how members can access additional support or information when they’re making a claim.

In relation to cessation of insurance, ASIC notes that it is incorrect to simply state that an account with a balance that falls below $6,000, including due to early release, may or will lose insurance because of the Putting Members’ Interests First (PMIF) and Protecting Your Super Package (PYSP) measures.

If a member’s account balance falls below $6,000, the PMIF and PYSP measures do not:

  • from 1 April 2020, cause insurance to automatically cease; or
  • require an account to automatically be transferred to the ATO (because while a balance below $6,000 is one part of the criteria for the account transfer, there are several other criteria that must also be satisfied).  

For more guidance on the operation of the measures see: APRA’s FAQs on Putting Members’ Interests First (PMIF) and Protecting Your Super Package (PYSP).

This FAQ was last updated 10 July 2020.

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1D. What is ASIC doing to allow greater access to advice through superannuation as a result of COVID-19?

A package of measures has been announced by ASIC, including a temporary no‑action position allowing the provision of certain expanded intra‑fund advice relating to early access to superannuation. As outlined in the no‑action position, trustees must notify ASIC if they rely on this no-action position.

On 23 September 2020, ASIC extended its no-action position for trustees until 31 December 2020, to align with the Government's extension fo the COVID-19 early release of superannuation scheme.

Read the media release

This FAQ was last updated 23 September 2020.

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1E. How should trustees communicate the potential long-term impacts of the COVID-19 early release of superannuation scheme on retirement balances?

All communications by trustees about the COVID-19 early release of superannuation scheme should be clear, accurate, balanced and must not mislead or deceive.

Where communications use projections or estimates of the impact on future retirement balances, ASIC considers trustees can minimise the risk of making misleading statements by:

  • presenting estimated impacts adjusted for inflation (that is, estimates are expressed in today’s dollars);
  • adopting standards and assumptions that are consistent with:

    (For instance, estimates consistent with CO 11/1227 would assume:

    • that wages will increase at the same rate as inflation;
    • investment earnings of 3% per year after inflation and investment fees;
    • annual administration fees and costs of an average member in a relevant investment option selected for modelling purposes;
    • a constant rate of super contributions until retirement;
    • retirement at age 67; 
    • annual insurance premiums of an average member in the selected investment option; and
    • that current tax and superannuation laws remain unchanged.)
  • clearly disclosing the assumptions and variables used in the modelling and that the figures disclosed are merely estimates.

ASIC notes that this FAQ is not intended to expand the scope of the licensing relief provided by ASIC Class Order [CO 11/1227].

Where trustees suggest members access a generic calculator to calculate the impact of accessing the COVID-19 early release of superannuation scheme on the member's own retirement balance, then the calculator should operate consistently with ASIC Corporations (Generic Calculators) Instrument 2016/207.

This FAQ was last updated 16 April 2020.

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1F. How should trustees communicate with members about the Government’s temporary reduction to the minimum drawdown rates for the 2020-21 financial year?

Trustees should contact affected members directly with clear information about the changes and the trustee’s implementation approach.

Members in retirement phase need to understand how the halving of the minimum drawdown rates will impact them in light of:

  • their current drawdown instructions; and
  • the trustee’s implementation approach.

This communication is important because:

  • an unexpected change to pension payments can cause members financial and emotional distress;
  • without the right information  members may miss out on an opportunity to decrease their pension payments when this would suit them best.

It is especially important that any communications are timely, to enable members to make an informed decision about their financial needs for the 2020-21 financial year. Generally, trustees would be obliged to send a significant event notice to members as a result of the change to the minimum drawdown rates.

Trustees should provide affected members with a clear, factual explanation of:

  • the changes to minimum drawdown rates;
  • the member’s current drawdown instructions;
  • what will happen to the member’s pension payments in the 2020-21 financial year if the member takes no action; and
  • how members can change their current drawdown instruction, if they wish to.

Trustees also need to consider whether their processes for engaging with members about and accepting new drawdown instructions have sufficient capacity to meet member needs in a timely and effective way.

This FAQ was last updated 22 June 2020.

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2. Recalibration of regulatory priorities due to COVID-19

*UPDATED* 2A. Will ASIC be amending ASIC Class Order [CO 14/443] to extend relief from portfolio holdings disclosure obligations?

Yes.

ASIC has amended ASIC Class Order [CO 14/443] Deferral of choice product dashboard and portfolio holdings disclosure regimes to defer the first reporting date for portfolio holdings disclosure for one year to 31 December 2021 given that the regulations supporting the requirements are yet to be made.

Read media release 20-315MR ASIC extends relief from portfolio holdings disclosure.

The one-year deferral will allow further time for Government to develop, consult upon and make the regulations. Depending on when regulations are made, ASIC may shorten the period of deferral having regard to an appropriate transition time for industry to implement the regime.

This FAQ was last updated 8 December 2020.

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2B. Will ASIC be providing any relief from the requirement to hold an annual members’ meeting under section 29P of the Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993 (SIS Act)?

Not at this stage. We will closely monitor conditions and revisit this issue if appropriate. 

Most trustees have until 31 December 2020 to provide members with notice of the annual members’ meeting. For these trustees, the meetings can be held as late as March 2021. By this time, the current challenges with holding a physical meeting may not persist.

Furthermore, electronic or virtual annual members’ meetings are expressly contemplated in section 29P and the Explanatory Memorandum to the Treasury Laws Amendment (Improving Accountability and Member Outcomes in Superannuation Measures No. 1) Bill 2019, which introduced section 29P.

The objective of the annual members’ meeting requirement is to increase accountability and transparency by giving members an opportunity to discuss key aspects of the fund and provide a forum for questions about the fund’s performance and operations. Consistent with this objective and section 29P(5), ASIC expects trustees to hold annual members’ meetings in a manner that enables member participation and discussion.

ASIC notes that section 29P provides for regulations prescribing further requirements and such regulations have not yet been made. ASIC considers that trustees can still hold an annual member’s meeting in the absence of these regulations.

This FAQ was last updated 1 April 2020.

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2C. Will the publication of the industry level findings from the joint work on trustee’s oversight of fees and other charges be deferred?

Yes. Publication of the findings of this work will be deferred for six months.

During 2019, APRA and ASIC required all trustees to review the robustness of their existing governance and assurance arrangements for fees charged to members’ superannuation accounts. APRA and ASIC have since engaged with individual trustees on the outcomes of their reviews, ensuring that trustees have credible plans for addressing identified weaknesses in a timely manner. Given the refocus of both agencies, APRA and ASIC will defer for six months publication of the industry-level findings that was originally scheduled for the first half of 2020.

This FAQ was last updated 1 April 2020.

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 2D. How can I find out about how COVID-19 has affected other ASIC activities?

On 14 April 2020, ASIC announced details of changes to ASIC regulatory work and priorities in light of COVID-19. This included details on superannuation, financial advice, managed fund and insurance activities of interest to superannuation trustees.

On 11 June 2020, ASIC released its interim corporate plan, which was accompanied by a revised timetable of ongoing work. This revised timetable includes release dates until the end of this calendar year for certain ASIC activities that will affect the superannuation industry. Superannuation trustees will be interested in the timetable for:

  • guidance on internal dispute resolution (IDR) and design and distribution obligations;
  • consultation on ASIC's remediation policy and IDR data collection and reporting; and
  • our report on insurance in superannuation.

The revised timetable also includes information on proposed timing of consultation and release of regulatory guidance in relation to legislation implementing the recommendations of the Financial Services Royal Commission.

This FAQ was last updated 22 June 2020.

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2E. Has ASIC amended the transitional arrangements in RG 97 instrument ASIC Corporations (Disclosure of Fees and Costs) Instrument 2019/1070?

Yes.

ASIC has now amended the transitional arrangements for PDSs to allow entities to come into the new disclosure regime from 30 September 2020. However, any PDS given on or after 30 September 2022 must comply with the new disclosure regime. This has provided more time and flexibility for issuers to move into the new regime than was previously allowed. There has been no change to the periodic statement transition arrangements. ASIC has issued a media release and updated the RG 97 webpage with this and the other minor amendments that have been made.

This FAQ was last updated 24 July 2020.

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3. Other issues

3A. Am I able to apply to ASIC for relief? How does that work?

ASIC may grant exemptions from or modifications to the law in certain situations. You can apply to ASIC for relief from the requirements in the Corporations Act or SIS Act, where ASIC has the relevant exemption and modification powers.

To apply for relief, you need to provide a detailed application addressing the requirements in Regulatory Guide 51 Applications for relief (RG 51). Note paragraphs RG 51.58 to RG 51.60 in particular when applying for relief.

To the extent that an issue may be industry wide, trustees may want to engage with their industry association and consider applying for class relief.

Further details on how to apply are set out in Information Sheet 82. This includes information on fees for applications.

Applications for relief should be submitted through the ASIC Regulatory Portal. Fees will apply to an application and details about payment options are provided in the portal. For more information see, how you apply for relief.

This FAQ was last updated 27 July 2020.

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What's new

ASIC publishes Internal Dispute Resolution data dictionary and glossary ahead of pilot

19 July 2021

ASIC has released internal dispute resolution (IDR) reporting documents, which will be tested in a pilot involving financial firms from across relevant industry subsectors in late 2021.

Read the media release

Product distribution: get ready for change

June 2021

Distribution rules for superannuation products are changing. Industry needs to be prepared for these reforms and should pay particular attention to the design and distribution obligations, which commence this October. ASIC’s Superannuation Senior Executive Leader, Jane Eccleston, answers some common questions about how the design and distribution obligations affect superannuation in ASFA’s Superfunds magazine.

Read the article

ASIC and APRA letter to trustees on oversight of advice fee deductions from member accounts

30 June 2021

ASIC and APRA have issued a joint letter outlining the regulators’ expectations of superannuation trustees in their oversight of financial advice fees charged to members’ accounts. The letter provides additional guidance informed by surveillances of trustees’ oversight frameworks and practices, cases identified during the Financial Services Royal Commission, and new obligations introduced by the Financial Sector Reform (Hayne Royal Commission Response No. 2) Act 2021, which commences on 1 July 2021.

Read the letter (PDF 138 KB)

ASIC and APRA release notes on inaugural Superannuation CEO Roundtable

29 June 2021

ASIC and APRA have released the public notes on the inaugural Superannuation CEO Roundtable held on Friday 30 April 2021.

The event focused on the implementation of SPS 515 Strategic Planning and Member Outcomes and Product Design and Distribution Obligations, and how the requirements are complementary and together challenge trustees to have a “continuous improvement” mindset.

Read the notes

ASIC extends licensing relief to all trustees of registrable superannuation entities for consistent treatment under the law

18 June 2021

ASIC has extended existing licensing relief for public offer trustees to include all registrable superannuation entities to ensure that non-public offer trustees are regulated consistently with public offer trustees under the Corporations Act 2001.

Read the media release

Internal dispute resolution (IDR) in superannuation: Transition from RG 165 to RG 271 from 5 October 2021

28 April 2021

ASIC Commissioner Danielle Press wrote to all superannuation trustee CEOs recently, highlighting the importance of CEO level engagement with the obligations set out in Regulatory Guide 271 – Internal Dispute Resolution (RG 271). These obligations commence 5 October 2021. ASIC is also seeking information from the superannuation industry to understand progress of their preparations for RG 271.

Read the letter (PDF 90 KB)

ASIC’s expectations about new internal dispute resolution requirements for superannuation trustees

March 2021

Regulatory Guide 271: Internal dispute resolution (RG 271) was released in July 2020 and contains updated standards and requirements that will drive financial services firms to ensure they handle consumer complaints in a fair and timely manner.

Jane Eccleston, ASIC’s Superannuation Senior Executive Leader, explains what the changes mean for trustees and outlines ASIC’s expectations.

Read the article

ASIC releases advice fee consent and lack of independence disclosure legislative instruments

25 March 2021

ASIC has made three legislative instruments that deal with advice fee consents and independence disclosure following Royal Assent of the Financial Sector Reform (Hayne Royal Commission Response No.2) Act 2021 earlier this month.

Read the media release

More super news and reports

Last updated: 30/03/2021 09:22